Purpose: Complex radiotherapy fields delivered using a tertiary multileaf collimator (MLC) often feature small open segments surrounded by large areas of the beam only shielded by the MLC. The aim of this study was to test the ability of two modern dose calculation algorithms to accurately calculate the dose in these fields which would be common, for example, in volumetric modulated arc treatment (VMAT) and study the impact of variations in dosimetric leaf gap (DLG), focal spot size, and MLC transmission in the beam models. Methods: Nine test fields with small fields (0.6-3 cm side length) surrounded by large MLC shielded areas (secondary collimator 12 × 12 cm2) were created using a 6 MV beam from a Varian Clinac iX linear accelerator with 120 leaf MLC. Measurements of output factors and profiles were performed using a diamond detector (PTW) and compared to two dose calculations algorithms anisotropic analytical algorithm (AAA) and Acuros XB implemented on a commercial radiotherapy treatment planning system (Varian Eclipse 10). Results: Both calculation algorithms predicted output factors within 1 for field sizes larger than 1 × 1 cm2. For smaller fields AAA tended to underestimate the dose. Profiles were predicted well for all fields except for problems of Acuros XB to model the secondary penumbra between MLC shielded fields and the secondary collimator. A focal spot size of 1 mm or less, DLG 1.4 mm and MLC transmission of 1.4 provided a generally good model for our experimental setup. Conclusions: AAA and Acuros XB were found to predict the dose under small MLC defined field segments well. While DLG and focal spot affect mostly the penumbra, the choice of correct MLC transmission will be essential to model treatments such as VMAT accurately. © 2012 American Association of Physicists in Medicine.