Plan quality in radiotherapy treatment planning – Review of the factors and challenges

Christian Rønn Hansen, Mohammad Hussein, Uffe Bernchou, Ruta Zukauskaite, David Thwaites

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A high-quality treatment plan aims to best achieve the clinical prescription, balancing high target dose to maximise tumour control against sufficiently low organ-at-risk dose for acceptably low toxicity. Treatment planning (TP) includes multiple steps from simulation/imaging and segmentation to technical plan production and reporting. Consistent quality across this process requires close collaboration and communication between clinical and technical experts, to clearly understand clinical requirements and priorities and also practical uncertainties, limitations and compromises. TP quality depends on many aspects, starting from commissioning and quality management of the treatment planning system (TPS), including its measured input data and detailed understanding of TPS models and limitations. It requires rigorous quality assurance of the whole planning process and it links to plan deliverability, assessable by measurement-based verification. This review highlights some factors influencing plan quality, for consideration for optimal plan construction and hence optimal outcomes for each patient. It also indicates some challenges, sources of difference and current developments. The topics considered include: the evolution of TP techniques; dose prescription issues; tools and methods to evaluate plan quality; and some aspects of practical TP. The understanding of what constitutes a high-quality treatment plan continues to evolve with new techniques, delivery methods and related evidence-based science. This review summarises the current position, noting developments in the concept and the need for further robust tools to help achieve it.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)267-278
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • dose prescription
  • plan evaluation
  • plan quality metrics
  • radiotherapy
  • treatment plan quality


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