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Open Access Research

Monitor units are not predictive of neutron dose for high-energy IMRT

Roger A Hälg1, Jürgen Besserer1, Markus Boschung3, Sabine Mayer3 and Uwe Schneider12*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Radiotherapy, Radiotherapie Hirslanden AG, Aarau, Switzerland

2 Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

3 Division for Radiation Safety and Security, Paul Scherrer Institut, Villigen, Switzerland

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Radiation Oncology 2012, 7:138  doi:10.1186/1748-717X-7-138

Published: 10 August 2012



Due to the substantial increase in beam-on time of high energy intensity-modulated radiotherapy (>10 MV) techniques to deliver the same target dose compared to conventional treatment techniques, an increased dose of scatter radiation, including neutrons, is delivered to the patient. As a consequence, an increase in second malignancies may be expected in the future with the application of intensity-modulated radiotherapy. It is commonly assumed that the neutron dose equivalent scales with the number of monitor units.


Measurements of neutron dose equivalent were performed for an open and an intensity-modulated field at four positions: inside and outside of the treatment field at 0.2 cm and 15 cm depth, respectively.


It was shown that the neutron dose equivalent, which a patient receives during an intensity-modulated radiotherapy treatment, does not scale with the ratio of applied monitor units relative to an open field irradiation. Outside the treatment volume at larger depth 35% less neutron dose equivalent is delivered than expected.


The predicted increase of second cancer induction rates from intensity-modulated treatment techniques can be overestimated when the neutron dose is simply scaled with monitor units.