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Adv Radiat Oncol


PURPOSE: Whole-heart dose metrics are not as strongly linked to late cardiac morbidities as radiation doses to individual cardiac substructures. Our aim was to characterize the excursion and dosimetric variation throughout respiration of sensitive cardiac substructures for future robust safety margin design.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: Eleven patients with cancer treatments in the thorax underwent 4-phase noncontrast 4-dimensional computed tomography (4DCT) with T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging in end-exhale. The end-exhale phase of the 4DCT was rigidly registered with the magnetic resonance imaging and refined with an assisted alignment surrounding the heart from which 13 substructures (chambers, great vessels, coronary arteries, etc) were contoured by a radiation oncologist on the 4DCT. Contours were deformed to the other respiratory phases via an intensity-based deformable registration for radiation oncologist verification. Measurements of centroid and volume were evaluated between phases. Mean and maximum dose to substructures were evaluated across respiratory phases for the breast (n = 8) and thoracic cancer (n = 3) cohorts.

RESULTS: Paired t tests revealed reasonable maintenance of geometric and anatomic properties (P < .05 for 4/39 volume comparisons). Maximum displacements >5 mm were found for 24.8%, 8.5%, and 64.5% of the cases in the left-right, anterior-posterior, and superior-inferior axes, respectively. Vector displacements were largest for the inferior vena cava and the right coronary artery, with displacements up to 17.9 mm. In breast, the left anterior descending artery D(mean) varied 3.03 ± 1.75 Gy (range, 0.53-5.18 Gy) throughout respiration whereas lung showed patient-specific results. Across all patients, whole heart metrics were insensitive to breathing phase (mean and maximum dose variations <0.5 Gy).

CONCLUSIONS: This study characterized the intrafraction displacement of the cardiac substructures through the respiratory cycle and highlighted their increased dosimetric sensitivity to local dose changes not captured by whole heart metrics. Results suggest value of cardiac substructure margin generation to enable more robust cardiac sparing and to reduce the effect of respiration on overall treatment plan quality.

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