Spinal cord protection during radiation therapy

Lawrence Coia, James Chu, Ronald Larsen, Robert Myerson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Scopus citations


    Treating intrathoracic malignancies to high doses, particularly those of lung and esophagus, requires limiting the radiation dose delivered to the spinal cord. Several factors are important in determining the cord dose. These are: (a) The distance from the block or collimator edge to the cord, (b) the variation of dose with distance from the block or collimator edge and, (c) the expected variation of this distance for clinical set-up from day-to-day. When treating with an oblique beam, the position of the cord may be difficult to identify. A technique for localizing the spinal cord on a simulator film at an arbitrary gantry angle is presented. The technique requires determination of distances from the central axis of the beam to the medial aspect of the pedicle and posterior vertebral body. These can readily be obtained from measurements on orthogonal, AP/PA and lateral isocentric simulator radiographs. A mathematical transformation is applied to determine the corresponding cord locations on the oblique radiographs for any arbitrary gantry angle. The accuracy of cord localization was within 2-3 mm with a precision of 2 mm for five physicians who used this technique. The beam edge characteristics for 60Co, 6 MV, and 10 MV teletherapy unit were measured for various depths and field sizes. For the 6 and 10 MV units, the beam penumbra is nearly independent of the field size, depth and field defining devices (inner and outer collimator jaws, trimmer bars, and shielding blocks). Because the beam penumbra is dependent on the design of the linear accelerator, its measurement should be made individually for each linear accelerator. Our preliminary data on patient positioning uncertainty did not exceed the 6-8 mm limit documented in the literature.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1697-1705
    Number of pages9
    JournalInternational journal of radiation oncology, biology, physics
    Issue number9
    StatePublished - Sep 1986


    • 60
    • Beam profile
    • Linear accelerator
    • Penumbra
    • Spinal cord dose
    • Spinal cord localization
    • Spinal cord protection


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