Evaluation and Mitigation of Secondary Dose Delivered to Electronic Systems in Proton Therapy

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To evaluate the scattered and secondary radiation fields present in and around a passive proton treatment nozzle. In addition, based on these initial tests and system reliability analysis, to develop, install, and evaluate a radiation shielding structure to protect sensitive electronics against single-event effects (SEE) and improve system reliability.

Methods and Materials:

Landauer Luxel+ dosimeters were used to evaluate the radiation field around one of the gantry-mounted passive proton delivery nozzles at Loma Linda University Medical Center’s James M Slater, MD Proton Treatment and Research Center. These detectors use optically stimulated luminescence technology in conjunction with CR-39 to measure doses from X-ray, gamma, proton, beta, fast neutron, and thermal neutron radiation. The dosimeters were stationed at various positions around the gantry pit and attached to racks on the gantry itself to evaluate the dose to electronics. Wax shielding was also employed on some detectors to evaluate the usefulness of this material as a dose moderator. To create the scattered and secondary radiation field in the gantry enclosure, a polystyrene phantom was placed at isocenter and irradiated with 250 MeV protons to a dose of 1.3 kGy over 16 hours. Using the collected data as a baseline, a composite shielding structure was created and installed to shield electronics associated with the precision patient positioner. The effectiveness of this shielding structure was evaluated with Landauer Luxel+ dosimeters and the results correlated against system uptime.


The measured dose equivalent ranged from 1 to 60 mSv, with proton/photon, thermal neutron, fast neutron, and overall dose equivalent evaluated. The position of the detector/electronics relative to both isocenter and also neutron-producing devices, such as the collimators and first and second scatterers, definitely had a bearing on the dose received. The addition of 1-inch-thick wax shielding decreased the fast neutron component by almost 50%, yet this yielded a corresponding average increase in thermal neutron dose of 150% as there was no Boron-10 component to capture thermal neutrons. Using these data as a reference, a shielding structure was designed and installed to minimize radiation to electronics associated with the patient positioner. The installed shielding reduced the total dose experienced by these electronics by a factor of 5 while additionally reducing the fast and thermal neutron doses by a factor of 7 and 14, respectively. The reduction in radiation dose corresponded with a reduction of SEE-related downtime of this equipment from 16.5 hours to 2.5 hours over a 6-month reporting period.


The data obtained in this study provided a baseline for radiation exposures experienced by gantry- and pit-mounted electronic systems. It also demonstrated and evaluated a shielding structure design that can be retrofitted to existing electronic system installations. It is expected that this study will benefit future upgrades and facility designs by identifying mechanisms that may minimize radiation dose to installed electronics, thus improving facility uptime.

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