The impact of mass density variations on an electron Monte Carlo algorithm for radiotherapy dose calculations

Raymond Fang, Thomas Mazur, Sasa Mutic, Rao Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: A key step in electron Monte Carlo dose calculation requires converting Computed Tomography (CT) numbers from a tomographic acquisition to a mass density. This study investigates the dosimetric consequences of perturbations applied to a calibration table between CT number and mass density. Materials and Methods: A literature search was performed to define lower and upper bounds for physically reasonable perturbations to a reference CT number to mass density calibration table. Electron beam dose was calculated for ten patients using these variations and the results were compared to clinical plans originally derived with a reference calibration table. Dose differences both globally and in the Planning Target Volume (PTV) were assessed using dose- and volume-based metrics and 3- dimensional gamma analysis for each patient. Results: Small but statistically significant differences were observed between perturbations and reference data for certain metrics including volume of the 50% prescription isodose. Upper and lower variations in CT number to mass density calibration yielded mean values of V50% that were 4.4% larger and 2.1% smaller than reference values respectively. Gamma analysis using 3%/3mm criteria indicated >99% passing rate for the PTV for all patients. Global gamma analysis for some patients showed larger discrepancies possibly due to large electron path lengths through inhomogeneities. Conclusions: In most patients, physically reasonable perturbations in CT number to mass density curves will not induce clinically significant impact on calculated target dose distributions. Strong dependence of electron transport on voxel material may produce dose speckle throughout the volume. Care should be taken in evaluating critical structures at depths beyond the target volume in highly heterogeneous regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPhysics and Imaging in Radiation Oncology
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Hounsfield units
  • Mass density
  • Monte Carlo electron dose calculation


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