Performance of a video-image-subtraction-based patient positioning system

Barrett D. Milliken, Steven J. Rubin, Russell J. Hamilton, L. Scott Johnson, George T.Y. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Purpose: We have developed and tested an interactive video system that utilizes image subtraction techniques to enable high precision patient repositioning using surface features. We report quantitative measurements of system performance characteristics. Methods and Materials: Video images can provide a high precision, low cost measure of patient position. Image subtraction techniques enable one to incorporate detailed information contained in the image of a carefully verified reference position into real- time images. We have developed a system using video cameras providing orthogonal images of the treatment setup. The images are acquired, processed and viewed using an inexpensive frame grabber and a PC. The subtraction images provide the interactive guidance needed to quickly and accurately place a patient in the same position for each treatment session. We describe the design and implementation of our system, and its quantitative performance, using images both to measure changes in position, and to achieve accurate setup reproducibility. Results: Under clinical conditions (60 cm field of view, 3.6 m object distance), the position of static, high contrast objects could be measured with a resolution of 0.04 mm (rms) in each of two dimensions. The two-dimensional position could be reproduced using the real- time image display with a resolution of 0.15 mm (rms). Two-dimensional measurement resolution of the head of a patient undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer was 0.1 mm (rms), using a lateral view, measuring the variation in position of the nose and the ear over the course of a single radiation treatment. Three-dimensional repositioning accuracy of the head of a healthy volunteer using orthogonal camera views was less than 0.7 mm (systematic error) with an rms variation of 1.2 min. Setup adjustments based on the video images were typically performed within a few minutes. The higher precision achieved using the system to measure objects than to reposition them suggests that the variability in repositioning is dominated by the ability of the therapist to make small, controlled changes in the position of the patient. Conclusion: Using affordable, off-the-shelf technology, we have developed a patient positioning system that achieves repositioning accuracy normally associated with fractionated stereotactic systems. The technique provides real-time guidance and can be used to easily and quickly correct patient setup before every treatment, thus significantly reducing overall random positioning error. This improved positioning capability provides the precision required to realize the potential gains of conformal radiotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-866
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1997


  • Conformal therapy
  • Patient positioning
  • Video imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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