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Prostate positional variability has been widely explored with seminal vesicle (SV) variability, coming into the forefront only in recent years. While planning target volume (PTV) margins and preparation protocols ameliorate the effects of bladder and rectum volume changes on prostate, studies on SV variation have looked at only position, not volume variability.
The aim of this study was to investigate whether the inter-fraction volume variability of the VSs can exist in patients receiving radiotherapy to the prostate.
SV variability was investigated by comparing four on-treatment cone beam computer tomography scans to a planning computer tomography (CT) image for two patients receiving prostate radiotherapy. For each case, variation in volumes (cm3) was compared with intra-observer variation.
SV volume variability was seen in both patients, with the largest change in volume being 78·38%. This variance was considerably (between 2 and 10 times) larger than the measured intra-observer variance.
This study identified the potential for daily SV volume variability in patients receiving prostate radiotherapy. Future large-scale studies are warranted to identify the extent of this motion and potential clinical impact. Evidence-informed PTV margins and possible SV volume control protocols may need to be adopted.
The mandatory clinical radiotherapy department visit undertaken by potential applicants aims to provide understanding of the profession and therefore reduce attrition. Increasing pressure on clinical departments makes visits a logistical challenge. This additional step may also present as an unnecessary barrier to applicants. With no evidence relating to visits, this study aimed to explore the perceptions of both students and clinical educators concerning potential benefits and challenges.
A focus group interview method was used to gather in-depth qualitative data concerning the clinical department visit experiences from first-year undergraduate students and clinical educators.
Three themes emerged from the student focus groups: the perceived purpose of the clinical visit, the visit content and the outcomes and impact arising from the visit. Clinical educator data also followed these themes in addition to ‘logistical impact’ theme.
The clinical visit has value to applicants in affirming their decision to study radiotherapy. There is variation in expectation and content for these visits and they are logistically challenging. Nationally agreed guidelines for visit structure and content could improve visit efficiency and effectiveness. A national clinical visit form may reduce workload for educators and applicants.
A novel radiotherapy outlining application uses a small number of user-assigned points across orthogonal planes to generate a mesh which is then edited across multiple slices using innovative three-dimensional (3D) sculpting tools. This paper presents the results of a bladder outlining study that compared times and volumes for the new tool with those of a conventional manual outlining tool.
Materials and methods
All students undertaking their first University radiotherapy planning module were invited to participate. Following training, they performed a timed outlining of the same male bladder dataset and provided feedback on their preferred method.
Comparison of times from the resulting ten datasets demonstrated that the 3D segmentation tool was significantly faster than conventional software with a mean time of 11·9 minutes compared with 19·2 minutes (p=0·03). The users expressed a preference for the new tool (eight users) over the conventional outlining software (two users).
A minimal point 3D volumetric manual outlining tool utilising orthogonal computed tomography planes demonstrated significant time saving for bladder segmentation compared with axial-based outlining within a group of novice outliners. Future work aims to establish the role of the 3D multi-slice sculpting tools in editing of auto-segmentation derived contour sets.
Pre-registration teaching of radiotherapy planning in a non-clinical setting should allow students the opportunity to develop clinical decision-making skills. Students frequently struggle with their ability to prioritise and optimise multiple objectives when producing a clinically acceptable plan. Emerging software applications providing quantitative assessment of plan quality are designed for clinical use but may have value for teaching these skills. This project aimed to evaluate the potential value of automated feedback to second year BSc (Hons) Radiotherapy students.
Materials and methods
All 26 students studying a pre-registration radiotherapy planning module were provided with automated prediction of relative feasibility for left lung tumour planning targets by planning metrics software. Students were also provided with interim quantitative reports during the development of their plan. Student perceptions of the software were gathered using an anonymous questionnaire. Independent blinded marking of plans was performed after module completion and analysed for correlation with software-assigned marks.
In total, 25 plans were utilised for marking comparison and 16 students submitted feedback relating to the software. Overall, student feedback was positive regarding the software. A ‘strong’ Spearman’s rank-order correlation (rs=0·7165) was evident between human and computer marks (p=0·000055).
Automated software is capable of providing useful feedback to students as a teaching aid, in particular with regard to relative feasibility of goals. The strong correlation between human and computer marks suggests a role in benchmarking or moderation; however, the narrow scope of assessment parameters suggests value as an adjunct and not a replacement to human marking.
Increasing usage of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in radiotherapy (RT) and the advent of MRI-based image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT) suggests a need for additional training within the RT profession. This critical review aimed to identify potential gaps in knowledge by evaluating the current skill base in MRI among therapeutic radiographers as evidenced by published research.
Papers related to MRI usage were retrieved. Topic areas included outlining, planning and IGRT; diagnosis, follow-up and staging-related papers were excluded. After selection and further text analysis, papers were grouped by tumour site and year of publication.
The literature search and filtering resulted in a total of 123 papers, of which 66 were related to ‘outlining’, 37 to ‘planning’ and 20 to ‘IGRT’. The main sites of existing MRI expertise in RT were brain, central nervous system, prostate, and head and neck tumours. Expertise was clearly related to regions where MRI offered improved soft-tissue contrast. MRI studies within RT have been published from 2007 onwards at a steadily increasing rate.
Current use of MRI in RT is mainly restricted to sites where MRI offers a considerable imaging advantage over computed tomography. Given the changing use of MRI for image guidance, emerging therapeutic radiographers will require training in MRI interpretation across a wider range of anatomical regions.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is an increasingly important aspect of a health professional’s skill set. It is strongly associated with empathy, reflection and resilience; all key aspects of radiotherapy practice. Previous work in other disciplines has formed contradictory conclusions concerning development of EI over time. This study aimed to determine the extent to which EI can develop during a radiotherapy undergraduate course and identify factors affecting this.
Methods and materials
This study used anonymous coded Likert-style surveys to gather longitudinal data from radiotherapy students relating to a range of self-perceived EI traits during their 3-year degree. Data were gathered at various points throughout the course from the whole cohort.
A total of 26 students provided data with 14 completing the full series of datasets. There was a 17·2% increase in self-reported EI score with a p-value<0·0001. Social awareness and relationship skills exhibited the greatest increase in scores compared with self-awareness. Variance of scores decreased over time; there was a reduced change in EI for mature students who tended to have higher initial scores. EI increase was most evident immediately after clinical placements.
Radiotherapy students increase their EI scores during a 3-year course. Students reported higher levels of EI immediately after their clinical placement; radiotherapy curricula should seek to maximise on these learning opportunities.
Craniospinal irradiation is a technique indicated when a patient has a malignancy that has either disseminated, or is at risk of disseminating, throughout the subarachnoid space. While the craniospinal axis is treatable with conventional radiotherapy, the high doses to organs at risk carry an increased risk of acute and late side effects. Proton craniospinal irradiation is an expensive technique that shows great theoretical promise arising from reduced exit doses. The purpose of this systematic review is to determine the potential role of proton therapy as a standard modality for craniospinal irradiation.
Materials and methods
A literature review was performed to determine the efficacy and cost of proton craniospinal irradiation. The Cochrane Library and the Inspec, Medline (via Pubmed) and Scopus databases were searched. After exclusion criteria were applied, the remaining papers were systematically appraised utilising the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network critical appraisal checklists.
A total of 14 articles remained following the application of the screening and critical appraisal processes. In total, five of the articles concluded that the risk of secondary malignancy was lower with proton therapy, while ten of the articles included data showing that toxicity rates and organs at risk doses were lower with proton therapy. Doses to most thoracic and abdominal organs at risk analysed in the literature were reduced when proton therapy was used, with the sole exception of the oesophagus, the dose to which depended on whether or not the entire vertebral body was treated. Proton therapy also delivered optimal doses to organs at risk in the head and neck compared with conformal radiation therapy. However, in one study that compared tomotherapy to proton therapy, tomotherapy outperformed proton therapy by delivering lower doses to organs at risk in the head and neck, as well as the kidneys. The two cost-effectiveness studies did not indicate proton therapy as an optimal modality for all treatment sites; however, one of the studies found that for medulloblastoma, protons were more cost effective than conventional radiation therapy.
Proton therapy is a superior treatment option for craniospinal irradiation. The reduction in risk of toxicity and radiocarcinogenesis offered by proton craniospinal irradiation appear to outweigh the increased costs.
The novel three-dimensional (3D) radiotherapy interactive outlining tool allows volumes to be created from a handful of points within axial, sagittal and coronal planes. 3D volumetric visualisation allows users to directly manipulate the resulting volume using innovative-sculpting tools. This paper discusses the development and initial evaluation of the software ahead of formal clinical testing.
Materials and methods
User feedback was collated as part of the software development phase to ensure clinical suitability, define user training strategies and identify best practice. A loosely structured format was adopted with leading descriptive questions aiming to generate suggestions for improvements and initiate further discussion.
The four participants reported great satisfaction and value in being able to use all three planes for outlining, although orientation in 3D was evidently a problem. All participants felt that the software was capable of producing acceptable outlines rapidly and that the multi-planar capability allowed for improved outlining of the prostate apex.
Mesh generation from a small number of points placed on a range of planes is a rapid and effective means of target delineation. Multi-slice volume sculpting and 3D orientation is challenging and may indicate a need for a paradigm shift in anatomy and computed tomography training.
This single-case feasibility study presents an undergraduate radiotherapy student’s experiences of remote access to University treatment planning software in place of on-site practical learning. With clinical sites increasingly utilising telemedicine there is interest in educational applications of this technology.
Materials and methods
This was an unplanned study with the student initiating remote access; additional tutor support was provided as requested. Subsequent discussion between the tutor and student formed the basis for the presented findings.
A second-year student planned five assessment cases from home, supported by regular on-campus tutorials. The student saved a 2-hour journey per practical and gained additional planning practice time. Unit performance was 10% less than a previous Unit, but student satisfaction with the format was high.
Educational remote access to treatment planning software is logistically feasible, although strict guidelines and formal tutor support is vital. Remote access can alleviate pressure on facilities and improve student time efficiency. Controlled and supported provision of remote access to planning software could enhance on-site practical teaching sessions for more mature independent learners. Further cohort-wide studies could clarify advantages, disadvantages and possible role of remote access for radiotherapy planning education.
An emerging developmental tool to help radiation therapists achieve better outcomes is ‘peer review’. This review of the current literature summarises the challenges and benefits of peer review in both individual and departmental practice.
There is compelling evidence supporting peer review implementation at both individual and department level in many professions. Implementing peer review requires that radiation therapists and other radiation oncology professionals embrace a culture that supports safety. Peer review can identify trends and barriers associated with quality radiotherapy and share best practice or recommend changes accordingly. Support for peer review must come from pre-registration educational systems as well as clinical managers. Continuing professional development in the workplace is nurtured by peer review of radiotherapy practice and an aptitude for this should be viewed as important to the profession as technical and clinical skills.
It is clear that peer review has the potential to facilitate reflective practice, improve staff motivation and help foster a culture of quality and safety in radiation oncology. To drive the issues of quality and safety a step further radiation therapists need to accept the challenge of adopting peer review methods in day-to-day practice.