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Proton CT of a human head

Nigel Allinson, University of Lincoln
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3D rendering of the head of an adult male receiving X-ray radiotherapy, viewed from the side. The patient is wearing a conventional restrictive mesh mask to prevent any movement during treatment. No data is available for the tip of the nose. A clinical proton CT has not yet been produced to date. This is a simulation using X-ray data of a patient receiving radiotherapy where every X-ray event has been converted to its proton equivalent. 180 image projections were then processed using a new algorithm to create the image seen here. Using a digital model created in this way, external tissue can also be digitally stripped away to reveal the bare skull inside. Proton beam radiotherapy is rapidly becoming a recognised treatment for certain cancers, especially in children and young people. To target the tumour site while minimising the exposure to healthy surrounding tissue it is necessary to image using the same particles (protons) that are used for therapy. The advantage of using high-energy treatment protons to construct the CT scan instead of much lower energy X-ray photons is that registration errors are reduced from ±4% to less than ±1%. Proton therapy could be used in many more cases and with better outcomes.


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