The characteristics of the focal spot of the linear accelerator (linac)play a role in determining the resulting dose distribution within the patient, and hence probability of treatment success. A direct measurement of focal spot position is not recommended by AAPM Task Group 142, but factors influenced by focal spot position, such as beam symmetry and isocentre position, are. Traditional methods of measuring focal spot position are time consuming and can only be performed at gantry 0°. The presented method has been proposed using a phantom of novel design to accurately measure the position of the focal spot relative to the collimator's axis of rotation (CAX)at any gantry angle, and to measure the intra-fraction movement of the focal spot relative to the mean position during treatment. The method was reproducible to within 0.012 mm/0.029 mm (mean/max)for the three Varian linacs tested. The focal spot position was shown to deviate from the CAX by up to 0.386 mm during gantry rotation. The focal spot position was more unstable at the start of treatment, with the worst performing linac having an initial displacement of up to 0.15 mm from its mean position before stabilizing to within 0.01 mm after 3 s. The method proposed is a beneficial addition to the quality assurance (QA)schedule of any clinic, allowing quick determination of source position and movement at any gantry angle. Measurement of focal spot allows the possibility of fine-tuning the electron beam steering system to improve the standard of the photon beam and of stereotactic treatments.
- Focal spot
- Quality assurance