IMRT Safety the Focus of New ASTRO Report

July 18, 2011

The report broadly addresses safe delivery of IMRT, with a primary focus on recommendations for human error prevention and methods to reduce the occurrence of errors or machine malfunctions that can lead to errors or “catastrophic failures,” ASTRO officials said.

American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has published the first of its reports on improving safety in radiation oncology. The paper, “Safety Considerations for IMRT,” was published online this month in the ASTRO journal, Practical Radiation Oncology. Jean Moran, PhD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was lead author.

The focuses on the safety of intensity modulated radiation therapy and was commissioned in January 2010, following New York Times reports on serious accidents involving IMRT and other types of radiation treatment.

The report broadly addresses safe delivery of IMRT, with a primary focus on recommendations for human error prevention and methods to reduce the occurrence of errors or machine malfunctions that can lead to errors or “catastrophic failures,” ASTRO officials said.

Among other issues, the report touches up on elements of a “culture of safety” (mutual trust, defined roles and responsibilities, event tracking); technical considerations (training, IMRT system commissioning, QA program); and includes a list of recommendations to safeguard against catastrophic failures in IMRT.

The report suggests use of a “forced time out” to assure adequate time to perform reviews and quality assurance at key points in the process.

“Team members need to acknowledge that initiation of treatment may need to be delayed to allow time for necessary QA checks and subsequent investigations of problems,” the authors said.