A simple method to prolong the service life of radioactive sources for external radiotherapy

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A radioactive source is usually replaced and disposed after being used for a certain amount of time (usually a half-life). In this study, a simple method is proposed to prolong its service life. Instead of replacing the used source with a new source of full activity, a new source of less activity is added in the source holder in front of the used one, so that the total activity of two sources is equal to the initial activity of the used source or even higher. Similarly, more sources can be added to the previous ones. Attenuation of front source(s) to the back source(s) was evaluated with exponential attenuation equation, and variation of source-focus distance (SFD) with inverse square law for Leksell 4C Gamma Knife, which served as an example of external radiotherapy units. When the number of front sources increased from 1 to 3, the relative air kerma decreased from 36.5% to 5.0%. Both the attenuation effect and SFD variation contributed to the decrease in air kerma, with the former being the major factor. If the height of the source can be decreased in some way, such as increasing the specific activity of sources, the sources can be used more efficiently. The method prolongs the service life of sources by several factors, and reduces the expense of source exchange and reclamation.

PACS number: 87.56.bg

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