Physics in medicine and biology

A position-sensitive superheated emulsion chamber for three-dimensional photon dosimetry.

PMID 9623646


A position-sensitive detector chamber is introduced for the three-dimensional (3D) dosimetry of photon-emitting brachytherapy sources. The detector is based on an extremely fine suspension of monochloropentafluoroethane droplets emulsified in a gel. The droplets are highly superheated at room temperature and their evaporation can be triggered by photon interactions, leading to the formation of microscopic bubbles. Thus, when photon-emitting brachytherapy sources are inserted into the detector, bubble distributions form around them, enabling visualization of the radiation field. The tissue-equivalent emulsifier gel is highly viscous and keeps the bubbles immobilized at the location of their formation. Bubbles can then be imaged by nuclear magnetic resonance or optical scanning techniques. After the imaging, the detector can be pressurized in order to recondense the bubbles to the liquid phase. In a few minutes, the device is annealed and ready to be used again for repeated measurements improving the counting statistics. The photon sensitivity of the monochloropentafluoroethane droplets was determined with highly filtered, quasi-monochromatic x-ray beams and radionuclide gamma sources. The air-kerma response presents a broad maximum at low energies, due to the relatively high effective atomic number of the halocarbon molecule. A prototype chamber was built and successfully tested: bubble distributions deriving from the insertion of a 125I source were imaged by means of a slice-selective 3D gradient-echo technique. These experiments confirm the potential and viability of this new approach to 3D photon dosimetry.