Ultrasound Imaging in Radiation Therapy: From Interfractional to Intrafractional Guidance

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is included in the treatment regimen of the majority of cancer patients. With the proliferation of hypofractionated radiotherapy treatment regimens, such as stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), interfractional and intrafractional imaging technologies are becoming increasingly critical to ensure safe and effective treatment delivery.

Ultrasound (US)-based image guidance systems offer real-time, markerless, volumetric imaging with excellent soft tissue contrast, overcoming the limitations of traditional X-ray or computed tomography (CT)-based guidance for abdominal and pelvic cancer sites, such as the liver and prostate. Interfractional US guidance systems have been commercially adopted for patient positioning but suffer from systematic positioning errors induced by probe pressure.

More recently, several research groups have introduced concepts for intrafractional US guidance systems leveraging robotic probe placement technology and real-time soft tissue tracking software. This paper reviews various commercial and research-level US guidance systems used in radiation therapy, with an emphasis on hardware and software technologies that enable the deployment of US imaging within the radiotherapy environment and workflow.

Previously unpublished material on tissue tracking systems and robotic probe manipulators under development by our group is also included.

Cureus. 2015 Jun 20;7(6):e280. doi: 10.7759/cureus.280. eCollection 2015.

Western C1, Hristov D2, Schlosser J3.

1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University.
2 Department of Radiation Oncology, Stanford University.
3 Founder, SoniTrack Systems.