Comparative Analysis of Radiotherapy Linear Accelerator Downtime and Failure Modes in the UK, Nigeria and Botswana

Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2020 Apr;32(4):e111-e118. doi: 10.1016/j.clon.2019.10.010. Epub 2019 Nov 19.


The lack of radiotherapy linear accelerators (linacs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has been recognised as a major barrier to providing quality cancer care in these regions, together with a shortfall in the number of highly qualified personnel. It is expected that additional challenges will be faced in operating precise, high-technology radiotherapy equipment in these environments, and anecdotal evidence suggests that linacs have greater downtime and higher failure rates of components than their counterparts in high-income countries. To guide future developments, such as the design of a linac tailored for use in LMIC environments, it is important to take a data-driven approach to any re-engineering of the technology. However, no detailed statistical data on linac downtime and failure modes have been previously collected or presented in the literature. This work presents the first known comparative analysis of failure modes and downtime of current generation linacs in radiotherapy centres, with the aim of determining any correlations between linac environment and performance. Logbooks kept by radiotherapy personnel on the operation of their linac were obtained and analysed from centres in Oxford (UK), Abuja, Benin, Enugu, Lagos, Sokoto (Nigeria) and Gaborone (Botswana). By deconstructing the linac into 12 different subsystems, it was found that the vacuum subsystem only failed in the LMIC centres and the failure rate in an LMIC environment was more than twice as large in six of the 12 subsystems compared with the high-income country. Additionally, it was shown that despite accounting for only 3.4% of the total number of faults, linac faults that took more than 1 h to repair accounted for 74.6% of the total downtime. The results of this study inform future attempts to mitigate the problems affecting linacs in LMIC environments.

Keywords: Accelerator; availability; downtime; failure modes; linac; radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Botswana
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Nigeria
  • Particle Accelerators / instrumentation*
  • United Kingdom