Using the ACR CT accreditation phantom for routine image quality assurance on both CT and CBCT imaging systems in a radiotherapy environment

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Image-guided radiation therapy using cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) is becoming routine practice in modern radiation therapy. The purpose of this work was to develop an imaging QA program for CT and CBCT units in our department, based on the American College of Radiology (ACR) CT accreditation phantom. The phantom has four testing modules, permitting one to test CT number accuracy, slice width, low contrast resolution, image uniformity, in-plane distance accuracy, and high-contrast resolution reproducibly with suggested window/levels for image analysis. Additional tests for contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) and noise were added using the polyethylene and acrylic plugs. Baseline values were obtained from CT simulator images acquired on a Phillips Brilliance Big Bore CT simulator and CBCT images acquired on three Varian CBCTs for the imaging protocols most used clinically. Images were then acquired quarterly over a period of two years. Images were exported via DICOM and analyzed manually using OsiriX. Baseline values were used to ensure that image quality remained consistent quarterly, and baselines were reset at any major maintenance or recalibration. Analysis of CT simulator images showed that image quality was within ACR guidelines for all tested scanning protocols. All three CBCT systems were unable to distinguish the low-contrast resolution plugs and had the same high-contrast resolution over all imaging protocols. Analysis of CBCT results over time determined a range of values that could be used to establish quantitative tolerance levels for image quality deterioration. While appropriate for the helical CT, the ACR phantom and guidelines could be modified to be more useful in evaluating CBCT systems. In addition, the observed values for the CT simulator were well within ACR tolerances.

PACS numbers: 87.57.Q-, 87.57.qp, 87.57.C-

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