The purpose of this study is to evaluate dose prediction errors (DPEs) and optimization convergence errors (OCEs) resulting from use of a superposition∕convolution dose calculation algorithm in deliverable intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) optimization for head-and-neck (HN) patients. Thirteen HN IMRT patient plans were retrospectively reoptimized. The IMRT optimization was performed in three sequential steps: (1) fast optimization in which an initial nondeliverable IMRT solution was achieved and then converted to multileaf collimator (MLC) leaf sequences; (2) mixed deliverable optimization that used a Monte Carlo (MC) algorithm to account for the incident photon fluence modulation by the MLC, whereas a superposition∕convolution (SC) dose calculation algorithm was utilized for the patient dose calculations; and (3) MC deliverable-based optimization in which both fluence and patient dose calculations were performed with a MC algorithm. DPEs of the mixed method were quantified by evaluating the differences between the mixed optimization SC dose result and a MC dose recalculation of the mixed optimization solution. OCEs of the mixed method were quantified by evaluating the differences between the MC recalculation of the mixed optimization solution and the final MC optimization solution. The results were analyzed through dose volume indices derived from the cumulative dose-volume histograms for selected anatomic structures. Statistical equivalence tests were used to determine the significance of the DPEs and the OCEs. Furthermore, a correlation analysis between DPEs and OCEs was performed. The evaluated DPEs were within ±2.8% while the OCEs were within 5.5%, indicating that OCEs can be clinically significant even when DPEs are clinically insignificant. The full MC-dose-based optimization reduced normal tissue dose by as much as 8.5% compared with the mixed-method optimization results. The DPEs and the OCEs in the targets had correlation coefficients greater than 0.71, and there was no correlation for the organs at risk. Because full MC-based optimization results in lower normal tissue doses, this method proves advantageous for HN IMRT optimization
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