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The influence of MRI scan position on patients with oropharyngeal cancer undergoing radical radiotherapy

Scott Hanvey12*, Mark McJury12, Lye Mun Tho4, Martin Glegg2, Maureen Thomson3, Derek Grose3, Allan James3, Mohammed Rizwanullah3, Claire Paterson3 and John Foster12

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Physics, University of Glasgow, Wolfson Medical School Building, University Avenue, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK

2 Department of Clinical Physics and Bioengineering, Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, 1053 Great Western Road, Glasgow, Scotland G12 0YN, UK

3 Department of Clinical Oncology, Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, 1053 Great Western Road, Glasgow G12 0YN, Scotland, UK

4 Clinical Oncology Unit, University of Malaya Cancer Research Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Radiation Oncology 2013, 8:129  doi:10.1186/1748-717X-8-129

Published: 28 May 2013



The purpose of this study was to demonstrate how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) patient position protocols influence registration quality in patients with oropharyngeal cancer undergoing radical radiotherapy and the consequences for gross tumour volume (GTV) definition and radiotherapy planning.

Methods and materials

Twenty-two oropharyngeal patients underwent a computed tomography (CT), a diagnostic MRI (MRID) and an MRI in the radiotherapy position within an immobilization mask (MRIRT). Clinicians delineated the GTV on the CT viewing the MRID separately (GTVC); on the CT registered to MRID (GTVD) and on the CT registered to MRIRT (GTVRT). Planning target volumes (PTVs) were denoted similarly. Registration quality was assessed by measuring disparity between structures in the three set-ups. Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) radiotherapy planning was performed for PTVC, PTVD and PTVRT. To determine the dose received by the reference PTVRT, we optimized for PTVC and PTVD while calculating the dose to PTVRT. Statistical significance was determined using the two-tailed Mann–Whitney or two-tailed paired student t-tests.


A significant improvement in registration accuracy was found between CT and MRIRT versus the MRID measuring distances from the centre of structures (geometric mean error of 2.2 mm versus 6.6 mm). The mean GTVC (44.1 cm3) was significantly larger than GTVD (33.7 cm3, p value = 0.027) or GTVRT (30.5 cm3, p value = 0.014). When optimizing the VMAT plans for PTVC and investigating the mean dose to PTVRT neither the dose to 99% (58.8%) nor 95% of the PTV (84.7%) were found to meet the required clinical dose constraints of 90% and 95% respectively. Similarly, when optimizing for PTVD the mean dose to PTVRT did not meet clinical dose constraints for 99% (14.9%) nor 95% of the PTV (66.2%). Only by optimizing for PTVRT were all clinical dose constraints achieved.


When oropharyngeal patients MRI scans are performed in the radiotherapy position there are significant improvements in CT-MR image registration, target definition and PTV dose coverage.

MRI; CT; Oropharyngeal; Radiotherapy; Image registration; Patient setup