Postmastectomy radiotherapy of the chest wall: dosimetric comparison of common techniques

Lori J Pierce, James B Butler, Mary K Martel, Daniel P Normolle, Tod Koelling, Robin B Marsh, Allen S Lichter, Benedick A Fraass
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2002 April 1, 52 (5): 1220-30

PURPOSE: To compare seven techniques for irradiation of the postmastectomy chest wall (CW) using normal tissue complication probability (NTCP) predictions for pneumonitis and ischemic heart disease and dose-volume histogram analyses for normal and target tissues.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: Plan comparisons were performed for 20 left-sided postmastectomy CW RT cases using target volumes based on clinical delineation of standard field borders. Seven common treatment techniques were planned for each case, using a prescription of 50 Gy in 25 fractions to the CW and internal mammary node (IMN) targets. NTCP model metrics were used to quantify the risks of pneumonitis and ischemic heart disease, supplemented by dose-volume metrics to assess the target coverage to the CW and IMNs, as well as normal tissue dose (lung and heart).

RESULTS: Overlap in the distributions of the CW mean dose for all plans was found, except cobalt, which was significantly less than the remaining techniques (global F test, F = 21.90, p <0.0001). Standard tangents produced a significantly lower IMN mean dose than all other methods, as expected (F = 59.55, p < 0.0001); the reverse hockey stick and cobalt techniques were lower than the other methods, which were statistically similar. Cobalt produced a significantly higher percentage of the heart that received >30 Gy (V30) than the other methods (F = 49.76, p <0.0001). Use of partially wide tangent fields (PWTFs) resulted in the smallest heart V30. Use of cobalt fields resulted in a significantly greater NTCP estimate for ischemic heart disease than all the remaining techniques (F = 70.39, p <0.0001). Standard tangents resulted in a percentage of the lung receiving >20 Gy (V20) significantly less than with PWTFs, 30/70 and 20/80 photon/electron mix, and reverse hockey stick techniques. NTCP estimates for pneumonitis revealed significantly better results with standard tangents (F = 6.57, p <0.0001).

CONCLUSION: No one technique studied combines the best CW and IMN coverage with minimal lung and heart complication probabilities. The choice of technique should be based on clinical discretion and the technical expertise available to implement these complex plans. Of the seven techniques studied, this analysis supports PWTFs as the most appropriate balance of target coverage and normal tissue sparing when irradiating the CW and IMN.

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