Purpose: As external beam treatment plans become more dynamic and the dose to normal tissue is further constrained, treatments may consist of a larger number of beams, each delivering smaller doses (or monitor units, MU), in, e.g., volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT). Electronic portal imaging devices (EPID) may be used to verify external beam treatments on integrated fractions as well as in a more time dependant manner such as field by field. For treatment verification performed during a fraction (e.g., individual fields or VMAT control points), the lower limit of EPID measurement capability becomes important. The authors quantified the signal and timing accuracy of EPID images for low MU intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and conformal fields. Methods: EPID images were collected from three different vendor's accelerators for low MU fields and compared to expected images. Simulations were performed to replicate the EPID acquisition pattern and to enhance the understanding of EPID readout schemes. Results: Large discrepancies between observed and predicted images were noted due to an under-response to single low MU fields. It is shown that a variability of up to 37% can be observed for low MU fields in clinically used EPID acquisition modes and that the majority of this variability can be accounted for by the readout scheme, integration, and timing of EPID acquisitions. Simulations have confirmed the causes of the discrepancies. The occurrence and extent of the variation has been estimated for clinical settings. Conclusions: Incorrect absolute EPID signals collected for low MU fields in external beam treatments will negatively affect quantitative applications such as individual field based EPID dosimetry, typically appearing as an underdose, unless corrections to currently employed EPID readout schemes are made.
- low MU
- portal dosimetry