The effect of angular spread on the intensity distribution of arbitrarily shaped electron beams.
Knowledge of the relative intensity distribution at the patient's surface is essential for pencil beam calculations of three-dimensional dose distributions for arbitrarily shaped electron beams. To calculate the relative intensity distribution, the spatial spread resulting from angular spread is convolved with a two-dimensional step function whose shape corresponds to the applicator aperture. Two different approaches to obtain angular spread or the equivalent spatial spread are investigated. In the first method, the pencil beam angular spread is assumed to be Gaussian in shape. The angular spread constants (sigma theta) are then obtained from the slopes of measured intensity profiles. In the second method, the angular spread, in the form of an array of numerical values, is obtained by the deconvolution of measured intensity profiles. After obtaining the angular spread, the calculation for convolution is done in a number of parallel planes normal to the central axis at various distances from the electron collimator. Intensity at any arbitrary point in space is computed by interpolating between intensity distributions in adjacent planes on either side of the point. The effects of variations in angular spread as a function of field size for two treatment machines, one with a scanned electron beam and the other with a scattering foil, have been studied. The consequences of assuming angular spread to be of Gaussian shape are also examined. The electron intensity calculation techniques described in this paper apply primarily to methods of dose calculations that employ pencil beams generated using Monte Carlo simulations.