Use of parallel-plate ionization chambers in reference dosimetry of NOVAC and LIAC® mobile electron linear accelerators for intraoperative radiotherapy: a multi-center survey

Paolo Scalchi, Alessia Ciccotelli, Giuseppe Felici, Assunta Petrucci, Raffaella Massafra, Valeria Piazzi, Paola D'Avenia, Francesca Cavagnetto, Federica Cattani, Raffaella Romagnoli, Antonella Soriani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: LIAC® and NOVAC are two mobile linear accelerators dedicated to intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), generating electron beams in the energy range of 3-12 MeV. Due to high dose-per-pulse (up to 70 mGy per pulse), in 2003 the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) stated that "for the measure of dose to water in reference conditions, ionization chambers cannot be employed and no published dosimetry protocol can be used". As a consequence, ferrous sulphate (or, alternatively alanine) dosimetry was recommended. Based on a retrospective multi-center survey, a comparison with ferrous sulphate dosimetry is now used to validate the parallel-plate ionization chambers for reference dosimetry of NOVAC and LIAC.

METHODS: The IAEA TRS-398 dosimetry protocol was applied except for the reference irradiation setup and the determination of the ion-recombination correction factor ks . Moreover the depth of maximum dose (R100 ) instead of zref as measurement depth was chosen by the majority of centers, thus implying a renormalization of the beam-quality correction factor kQ,Qo , based on water-air stopping power ratios. Regarding the ks determination, a previously published method, independent of ferrous sulphate dosimetry, was adopted. All the centers participating in this study had used both ferrous sulphate dosimeters and ionization chambers in water phantoms for dosimetry under reference conditions.

RESULTS: The mean percentage difference between ionization chambers and ferrous sulphate dosimetry was -0.5% with a dispersion of 3.9% (2σ). Moreover, the uncertainty analysis allowed the agreement between ionization chambers and ferrous sulphate dosimetry to be verified. These results did not show any significant dependence on electron energy, thus indirectly confirming kQ,Qo renormalization. The results from the centers using zref as the measurement depth were similar to the other data, but further focused studies could aim at investigating possible dependences of the dose differences on the chosen reference depth.

CONCLUSION: The present study confirms that parallel-plate ionization chambers can properly and accurately substitute ferrous sulphate detectors in reference dosimetry of LIAC and NOVAC mobile linear accelerators. Therefore, we hope that the most commonly used protocols for reference dosimetry in external-beam radiotherapy will be updated in order to provide guidance in the calibration of electron beams from linear accelerators dedicated to IORT, so that users may benefit from specific, authoritative and up-to-date recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-332
Number of pages12
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • electron beams
  • reference dosimetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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