Dosimetric effects of air pockets around high-dose rate brachytherapy vaginal cylinders

Susan Richardson, Geethpriya Palaniswaamy, Perry W. Grigsby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Purpose: Most physicians use a single-channel vaginal cylinder for postoperative endometrial cancer brachytherapy. Recent published data have identified air pockets between the vaginal cylinders and the vaginal mucosa. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the incidence, size, and dosimetric effects of these air pockets. Methods and Materials: 25 patients receiving postoperative vaginal cuff brachytherapy with a high-dose rate vaginal cylinders were enrolled in this prospective data collection study. Patients were treated with 6 fractions of 200 to 400 cGy per fraction prescribed at 5 mm depth. Computed tomography simulation for brachytherapy treatment planning was performed for each fraction. The quantity, volume, and dosimetric impact of the air pockets surrounding the cylinder were quantified. Results: In 25 patients, a total of 90 air pockets were present in 150 procedures (60%). Five patients had no air pockets present during any of their treatments. The average number of air pockets per patient was 3.6, with the average total air pocket volume being 0.34 cm3 (range, 0.01-1.32 cm3). The average dose reduction to the vaginal mucosa at the air pocket was 27% (range, 9-58%). Ten patients had no air pockets on their first fraction but air pockets occurred in subsequent fractions. Conclusion: Air pockets between high-dose rate vaginal cylinder applicators and the vaginal mucosa are present in the majority of fractions of therapy, and their presence varies from patient to patient and fraction to fraction. The existence of air pockets results in reduced radiation dose to the vaginal mucosa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-279
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


  • Endometrial cancer
  • Gynecologic brachytherapy
  • High-dose rate
  • Vaginal cylinder


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