Purpose: In recent times, longitudinal field MRI-linac systems have been proposed for 6 MV MRI-guided radiotherapy (MRIgRT). The magnetic field is parallel with the beam axis and so will alter the transport properties of any electron contamination particles. The purpose of this work is to provide a first investigation into the potential effects of the MR and fringe magnetic fields on the electron contamination as it is transported toward a phantom, in turn, providing an estimate of the expected patient skin dose changes in such a modality.
Methods: Geant4 Monte Carlo simulations of a water phantom exposed to a 6 MV x-ray beam were performed. Longitudinal magnetic fields of strengths between 0 and 3 T were applied to a 30 × 30 × 20 cm3 phantom. Surrounding the phantom there is a region where the magnetic field is at full MRI strength, consistent with clinical MRI systems. Beyond this the fringe magnetic field entering the collimation system is also modeled. The MRI-coil thickness, fringe field properties, and isocentric distance are varied and investigated. Beam field sizes of 5 × 5, 10 × 10, 15 × 15 and 20 × 20 cm2 were simulated. Central axis dose, 2D virtual entry skin dose films, and 70 μm skin depth doses were calculated using high resolution scoring voxels.
Results: In the presence of a longitudinal magnetic field, electron contamination from the linear accelerator is encouraged to travel almost directly toward the patient surface with minimal lateral spread. This results in a concentration of electron contamination within the x-ray beam outline. This concentration is particularly encouraged if the fringe field encompasses the collimation system. Skin dose increases of up to 1000% were observed for certain configurations and increases above Dmax were common. In nonmagnetically shielded cases, electron contamination generated from the jaw faces and air column is trapped and propagated almost directly to the phantom entry region, giving rise to intense dose hot spots inside the x-ray treatment field. These range up to 1000% or more of Dmax at the CAX, depending on field size, isocenter, and coil thickness. In the case of a fully magnetically shielded collimation system and the lowest MRI field of 0.25 T, the entry skin dose is expected to increase to at least 40%, 50%, 65%, and 80% of Dmax for 5 × 5, 10 × 10, 15 × 15, and 20 × 20 cm2, respectively.
Conclusions: Electron contamination from the linac head and air column may cause considerable skin dose increases or hot spots at the beam central axis on the entry side of a phantom or patient in longitudinal field 6 MV MRIgRT. This depends heavily on the properties of the magnetic fringe field entering the linac beam collimation system. The skin dose increase is also related to the MRI-coil thickness, the fringe field, and the isocenter distance of the linac. The results of this work indicate that the properties of the MRI fringe field, electron contamination production, and transport must be considered carefully during the design stage of a longitudinal MRI-linac system.