Clinical experience transitioning from IMRT to VMAT for head and neck cancer

Matthew T. Studenski, Voichita Bar-Ad, Joshua Siglin, David Cognetti, Joseph Curry, Madalina Tuluc, Amy S. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


To quantify clinical differences for volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) versus intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) in terms of dosimetric endpoints and planning and delivery time, twenty head and neck cancer patients have been considered for VMAT using Nucletron Oncentra MasterPlan delivered via an Elekta linear accelerator. Differences in planning time between IMRT and VMAT were estimated accounting for both optimization and calculation. The average delivery time per patient was obtained retrospectively using the record and verify software. For the dosimetric comparison, all contoured organs at risk (OARs) and planning target volumes (PTVs) were evaluated. Of the 20 cases considered, 14 had VMAT plans approved. Six VMAT plans were rejected due to unacceptable dose to OARs. In terms of optimization time, there was minimal difference between the two modalities. The dose calculation time was significantly longer for VMAT, 4 minutes per 358 degree arc versus 2 minutes for an entire IMRT plan. The overall delivery time was reduced by 9.2 ± 3.9 minutes for VMAT (51.4 ± 15.6%). For the dosimetric comparison of the 14 clinically acceptable plans, there was almost no statistical difference between the VMAT and IMRT. There was also a reduction in monitor units of approximately 32% from IMRT to VMAT with both modalities demonstrating comparable quality assurance results. VMAT provides comparable coverage of target volumes while sparing OARs for the majority of head and neck cases. In cases where high dose modulation was required for OARs, a clinically acceptable plan was only achievable with IMRT. Due to the long calculation times, VMAT plans can cause delays during planning but marked improvements in delivery time reduce patient treatment times and the risk of intra-fraction motion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-175
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Dosimetry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Dosimetry
  • Head and neck cancer
  • IMRT
  • VMAT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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