Purpose: To apply an imaging metric of the structural SIMilarity (SSIM) index to the radiotherapy dose verification field and evaluate its capability to reveal the different types of errors between two dose distributions. Method: The SSIM index consists of three sub-indices: luminance, contrast, and structure. Given two images, luminance analysis compares the local mean result, contrast analysis compares the local standard deviation, and the structure index represents the local Pearson correlation. Three test error patterns (absolute dose error, dose gradient error, and dose structure error) were designed to characterize the response of SSIM and its sub-indices and establish the correlation between the indices and different dose error types. After establishing the correlation, four radiotherapy plans (one MLC picket-fence test plan, one brain stereotactic radiotherapy plan, and two head-and-neck plans) were tested by computing each index and compared with the gamma analysis results to determine their similarities and differences. Results: Among the three test error patterns, the luminance index decreased from 1 to 0.1 when the absolute dose agreement fell from 100% to 5%, the contrast index decreased from 1 to 0.36 when the dose gradient agreement fell from 100% to 10%, and the structure index decreased from 1 to 0.23 when the periodical dose pattern shifted (leading to a lower correlation). Thus, the luminance, contrast and structure index can detect the absolute dose error, gradient discrepancy, and dose structure error, respectively. For the four clinical cases, the sub-indices can reveal the type of error when gamma analysis only provided limited information. Conclusions: The correlation between the subcomponents of the SSIM index and the error types of the dose distribution were established. The SSIM index provides additional error information compared to that provided by gamma analysis.
- dose distribution
- quality assurance