Transmission and dose perturbations with high-Z materials in clinical electron beams

Med Phys. 2004 Dec;31(12):3213-21. doi: 10.1118/1.1819551.


High density and atomic number (Z) materials used in various prostheses, eye shielding, and beam modifiers produce dose enhancements on the backscatter side in electron beams and is well documented. However, on the transmission side the dose perturbation is given very little clinical importance, which is investigated in this study. A simple and accurate method for dose perturbation at metallic interfaces with soft tissues and transmission through these materials is required for all clinical electron beams. Measurements were taken with thin-window parallel plate ion chambers for various high-Z materials (Al, Ti, Cu, and Pb) on a Varian and a Siemens accelerator in the energy range of 5-20 MeV. The dose enhancement on both sides of the metallic sheet is due to increased electron fluence that is dependent on the beam energy and Z. On the transmission side, the magnitude of dose enhancement depends on the thickness of the high-Z material. With increasing thickness, dose perturbation reduces to the electron transmission. The thickness of material to reduce 100% (range of dose perturbation), 50% and 10% transmission is linear with the beam energy. The slope (mm/MeV) of the transmission curve varies exponentially with Z. A nonlinear regression expression (t=E[alpha+beta exp(-0.1Z)]) is derived to calculate the thickness at a given transmission, namely 100%, 50%, and 10% for electron energy, E, which is simple, accurate and well suited for a quick estimation in clinical use. Caution should be given to clinicians for the selection of thickness of high-Z materials when used to shield critical structures as small thickness increases dose significantly at interfaces.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Electrons / therapeutic use*
  • Linear Energy Transfer*
  • Materials Testing / methods*
  • Metals / chemistry*
  • Metals / radiation effects*
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Protection / instrumentation*
  • Radiation Protection / methods
  • Radiometry / methods*
  • Scattering, Radiation


  • Metals