Spectral distribution of particle fluence in small field detectors and its implication on small field dosimetry

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Correction factors for the relative dosimetry of narrow megavoltage photon beams have recently been determined in several publications. These corrections are required because of the several small-field effects generally thought to be caused by the lack of lateral charged particle equilibrium (LCPE) in narrow beams. Correction factors for relative dosimetry are ultimately necessary to account for the fluence perturbation caused by the detector. For most small field detectors the perturbation depends on field size, resulting in large correction factors when the field size is decreased. In this work, electron and photon fluence differential in energy will be calculated within the radiation sensitive volume of a number of small field detectors for 6 MV linear accelerator beams. The calculated electron spectra will be used to determine electron fluence perturbation as a function of field size and its implication on small field dosimetry analyzed.


Fluence spectra were calculated with the user code PenEasy, based on the PENELOPE Monte Carlo system. The detectors simulated were one liquid ionization chamber, two air ionization chambers, one diamond detector, and six silicon diodes, all manufactured either by PTW or IBA. The spectra were calculated for broad (10 cm × 10 cm) and narrow (0.5 cm × 0.5 cm) photon beams in order to investigate the field size influence on the fluence spectra and its resulting perturbation. The photon fluence spectra were used to analyze the impact of absorption and generation of photons. These will have a direct influence on the electrons generated in the detector radiation sensitive volume. The electron fluence spectra were used to quantify the perturbation effects and their relation to output correction factors.


The photon fluence spectra obtained for all detectors were similar to the spectrum in water except for the shielded silicon diodes. The photon fluence in the latter group was strongly influenced, mostly in the low-energy region, by photoabsorption in the high-Z shielding material. For the ionization chambers and the diamond detector, the electron fluence spectra were found to be similar to that in water, for both field sizes. In contrast, electron spectra in the silicon diodes were much higher than that in water for both field sizes. The estimated perturbations of the fluence spectra for the silicon diodes were 11–21% for the large fields and 14–27% for the small fields. These perturbations are related to the atomic number, density and mean excitation energy (I-value) of silicon, as well as to the influence of the “extracameral”‘ components surrounding the detector sensitive volume. For most detectors the fluence perturbation was also found to increase when the field size was decreased, in consistency with the increased small-field effects observed for the smallest field sizes.


The present work improves the understanding of small-field effects by relating output correction factors to spectral fluence perturbations in small field detectors. It is shown that the main reasons for the well-known small-field effects in silicon diodes are the high-Z and density of the “extracameral” detector components and the high I-value of silicon relative to that of water and diamond. Compared to these parameters, the density and atomic number of the radiation sensitive volume material play a less significant role.

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