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Accuracy and inter-observer variability of 3D versus 4D cone-beam CT based image-guidance in SBRT for lung tumors

Reinhart A Sweeney, Benedikt Seubert, Silke Stark, Vanessa Homann, Gerd Müller, Michael Flentje and Matthias Guckenberger*

Author Affiliations

Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Wuerzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str, 11 97080 Wuerzburg, Germany

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Radiation Oncology 2012, 7:81  doi:10.1186/1748-717X-7-81

Published: 8 June 2012



To analyze the accuracy and inter-observer variability of image-guidance (IG) using 3D or 4D cone-beam CT (CBCT) technology in stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) for lung tumors.

Materials and methods

Twenty-one consecutive patients treated with image-guided SBRT for primary and secondary lung tumors were basis for this study. A respiration correlated 4D-CT and planning contours served as reference for all IG techniques. Three IG techniques were performed independently by three radiation oncologists (ROs) and three radiotherapy technicians (RTTs). Image-guidance using respiration correlated 4D-CBCT (IG-4D) with automatic registration of the planning 4D-CT and the verification 4D-CBCT was considered gold-standard. Results were compared with two IG techniques using 3D-CBCT: 1) manual registration of the planning internal target volume (ITV) contour and the motion blurred tumor in the 3D-CBCT (IG-ITV); 2) automatic registration of the planning reference CT image and the verification 3D-CBCT (IG-3D). Image quality of 3D-CBCT and 4D-CBCT images was scored on a scale of 1–3, with 1 being best and 3 being worst quality for visual verification of the IGRT results.


Image quality was scored significantly worse for 3D-CBCT compared to 4D-CBCT: the worst score of 3 was given in 19 % and 7.1 % observations, respectively. Significant differences in target localization were observed between 4D-CBCT and 3D-CBCT based IG: compared to the reference of IG-4D, tumor positions differed by 1.9 mm ± 0.9 mm (3D vector) on average using IG-ITV and by 3.6 mm ± 3.2 mm using IG-3D; results of IG-ITV were significantly closer to the reference IG-4D compared to IG-3D. Differences between the 4D-CBCT and 3D-CBCT techniques increased significantly with larger motion amplitude of the tumor; analogously, differences increased with worse 3D-CBCT image quality scores. Inter-observer variability was largest in SI direction and was significantly larger in IG using 3D-CBCT compared to 4D-CBCT: 0.6 mm versus 1.5 mm (one standard deviation). Inter-observer variability was not different between the three ROs compared to the three RTTs.


Respiration correlated 4D-CBCT improves the accuracy of image-guidance by more precise target localization in the presence of breathing induced target motion and by reduced inter-observer variability.

Lung cancer; Image-guidance; Cone-beam CT; Inter-observer variability; Respiration correlated imaging