Integration of MRI into the radiotherapy workflow

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå Universitet

Abstract: The modern day radiotherapy treatments are almost exclusively based on computed tomography (CT) images. The CT images are acquired using x-rays, and therefore reflect the radiation interaction properties of the material. This information is used to perform accurate dose calculation by the treatment planning system, and the data is also well suited for creating digitally reconstructed radiographs for comparing patient set up at the treatment machine where x-ray images are routinely acquired for this purpose.The magnetic resonance (MR) scanner has many attractive features for radiotherapy purposes. The soft tissue contrast as compared to CT is far superior, and it is possible to vary the sequences in order to visualize different anatomical and physiological properties of an organ. Both of these properties may contribute to an increase in accuracy of radiotherapy treatment.Using the MR images by themselves for treatment planning is, however, problematic. MR data reflects the magnetic properties of protons, and thus have no connection to the radiointeraction properties of the material. MRI also has inherent difficulty in imaging bone, which will appear in images as areas of no signal similar to air. This makes both dose calculation and patient positioning at the treatment machine troublesome.There are several clinics that use MR images together with CT images to perform treatment planning. The images are registered to a common coordinate system, a process often described as image fusion. In these cases, the MR images are primarily used for target definition and the CT images are used for dose calculations. This method is now not ideal, however, since the image fusion may introduce systematic uncertainties into the treatment due to the fact that the tumor is often able to move relatively freely with respect to the patients’ bony anatomy and outer contour, especially when the image registration algorithms take the entire patient anatomy in the volume of interest into account.The work presented in the thesis “Integration of MRI into the radiotherapy workflow” aim towards investigating the possibilities of workflows based entirely on MRI without using image registration, as well as workflows using image registration methods that are better suited for targets that can move with respect to surrounding bony anatomy, such as the prostate.