The use of tertiary collimation for spinal irradiation with extended SSD electron fields

Donald M. Roback, Jane M. Johnson, Faiz M. Khan, G. Phillip Engeler, Warren A. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: The spine can be treated with an electron beam when its maximum posterior depth is within the therapeutic range of electrons. Electron fields treated at extended source-to-surface distances (SSDs), however, have larger penumbras and narrower therapeutic isodose widths relative to those at the standard SSD of 100 cm. We investigated the use of tertiary collimation close to the patient surface for these fields to sharpen the penumbra, minimizing dose to normal tissue and maximizing target coverage. Methods and Materials: Using film dosimetry in a polystyrene phantom, we measured the dose distribution for electron fields at extended SSD under varying collimation conditions. Beam penumbra and therapeutic width as a function of depth, SSD, applicator insert size, and tertiary collimator opening were determined. We also measured the dose distributions in the junction region for various gaps between x-ray fields and an electron field as used for craniospinal irradiation. Results: Measurements show that tertiary collimation close to the skin surface reduces penumbra width (lateral distance between the 90 and 20% isodose lines) by 56% and increases therapeutic isodose width (lateral width of the 90% isodose curve) by 25% at a depth of d(max) relative to standard collimation. These numbers change to 23 and 13%, respectively, at an average depth of the spine. When lateral brain and posterior spine fields are used to irradiate the entire craniospinal axis, tertiary collimation aids in reducing the volume of the hot spot in the junction region by as much as 10% without compromising target coverage. Conclusions: Tertiary collimation for extended SSD electron fields is preferable to standard collimation in order to minimize dose to normal tissue and increase target coverage. This technique can be applied to both spinal and craniospinal irradiation. Support structures for the tertiary blocking are needed because the weight of the lead is usually too great for placement on the skin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1187-1192
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 15 1997


  • Craniospinal irradiation
  • Electrons
  • Tertiary collimation

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