Background and purpose: Currently, optimal use of virtual simulation for all treatment sites is not entirely clear. This study presents data to identify specific patient groups for whom conventional simulation may be completely eliminated and replaced by virtual simulation.
Sampling and method: Two hundred and sixty patients were recruited from four treatment sites (head and neck, breast, pelvis, and thorax). Patients were randomly assigned to be treated using the usual treatment process involving conventional simulation, or a treatment process differing only in the replacement of conventional plan verification with virtual verification. Data were collected on set-up accuracy at verification, and the number of unsatisfactory verifications requiring a return to the conventional simulator. A micro-economic costing analysis was also undertaken, whereby data for each treatment process episode were also collected: number and grade of staff present, and the time for each treatment episode.
Results: The study shows no statistically significant difference in the number of returns to the conventional simulator for each site and study arm. Image registration data show similar quality of verification for each study arm. The micro-costing data show no statistical difference between the virtual and conventional simulation processes.
Conclusions: At our institution, virtual simulation including virtual verification for the sites investigated presents no disadvantage compared to conventional simulation.