Revisiting the single-energy CT calibration for proton therapy treatment planning: a critical look at the stoichiometric method

Carles Goma*, Isabel P. Almeida, Frank Verhaegen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Despite extensive research in dual-energy computed tomography (CT), single-energy CT (SECT) is still the standard imaging modality in proton therapy treatment planning and, in this context, the stoichiometric calibration method is considered to be the most accurate to establish a relationship between CT numbers and proton stopping power. This work revisits the SECT calibration for proton therapy treatment planning, with special emphasis on the stoichiometric method. Three different sets of tissue-substitutes of known elemental composition (Gammex, CIRS and Catphan) were scanned with the same scanning protocol. A stoichiometric fit was performed for each set of tissue-substitutes. Based on that, the CT number, relative electron density and relative proton stopping power were calculated for ICRU 46 biological tissues and the different sets of tissue-substitutes. Despite common belief, it was found that the stoichiometric fit depends on the elemental composition of the tissue-substitutes used in the calibration, leading to differences in relative stopping power up to 3.5% for cortical bone. In addition, according to Rutherford et al (1976 Neuroradiology 11 15-21) parametrization of the atomic cross-section, CT numbers of Gammex tissue-substitutes and ICRU 46 biological tissues were found to be similar within the whole energy range relevant to computed tomography. Consequently, it was found that, for Gammex tissue-substitutes, the CT calibration curve resulting from the stoichiometric method agrees with that obtained by simple interpolation of experimental data. In conclusion, the stoichiometric method for SECT calibration seems to depend on the tissue-substitutes used for calibration-which could be regarded as an additional source of uncertainty in proton range for bone tissues. Furthermore, Gammex tissue-substitutes appear to be a good representative of biological tissues within the energy range relevant to computed tomography-making the stoichiometric method unnecessary.

Original languageEnglish
Article number235011
Number of pages13
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • proton therapy
  • CT calibration
  • biological tissue-substitutes
  • range uncertainty
  • X-RAY

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