AAPM's TG-51 protocol for clinical reference dosimetry of high-energy photon and electron beams

Med Phys. 1999 Sep;26(9):1847-70. doi: 10.1118/1.598691.


A protocol is prescribed for clinical reference dosimetry of external beam radiation therapy using photon beams with nominal energies between 60Co and 50 MV and electron beams with nominal energies between 4 and 50 MeV. The protocol was written by Task Group 51 (TG-51) of the Radiation Therapy Committee of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and has been formally approved by the AAPM for clinical use. The protocol uses ion chambers with absorbed-dose-to-water calibration factors, N(60Co)D,w which are traceable to national primary standards, and the equation D(Q)w = MkQN(60Co)D,w where Q is the beam quality of the clinical beam, D(Q)w is the absorbed dose to water at the point of measurement of the ion chamber placed under reference conditions, M is the fully corrected ion chamber reading, and kQ is the quality conversion factor which converts the calibration factor for a 60Co beam to that for a beam of quality Q. Values of kQ are presented as a function of Q for many ion chambers. The value of M is given by M = PionP(TP)PelecPpolMraw, where Mraw is the raw, uncorrected ion chamber reading and Pion corrects for ion recombination, P(TP) for temperature and pressure variations, Pelec for inaccuracy of the electrometer if calibrated separately, and Ppol for chamber polarity effects. Beam quality, Q, is specified (i) for photon beams, by %dd(10)x, the photon component of the percentage depth dose at 10 cm depth for a field size of 10x10 cm2 on the surface of a phantom at an SSD of 100 cm and (ii) for electron beams, by R50, the depth at which the absorbed-dose falls to 50% of the maximum dose in a beam with field size > or =10x10 cm2 on the surface of the phantom (> or =20x20 cm2 for R50>8.5 cm) at an SSD of 100 cm. R50 is determined directly from the measured value of I50, the depth at which the ionization falls to 50% of its maximum value. All clinical reference dosimetry is performed in a water phantom. The reference depth for calibration purposes is 10 cm for photon beams and 0.6R50-0.1 cm for electron beams. For photon beams clinical reference dosimetry is performed in either an SSD or SAD setup with a 10x10 cm2 field size defined on the phantom surface for an SSD setup or at the depth of the detector for an SAD setup. For electron beams clinical reference dosimetry is performed with a field size of > or =10x10 cm2 (> or =20x20 cm2 for R50>8.5 cm) at an SSD between 90 and 110 cm. This protocol represents a major simplification compared to the AAPM's TG-21 protocol in the sense that large tables of stopping-power ratios and mass-energy absorption coefficients are not needed and the user does not need to calculate any theoretical dosimetry factors. Worksheets for various situations are presented along with a list of equipment required.

MeSH terms

  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Electrons / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Photons / therapeutic use
  • Radiometry / instrumentation
  • Radiometry / standards*
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / standards*
  • Radiotherapy, High-Energy / standards
  • Societies, Scientific
  • United States
  • Water


  • Water