Physics of Radiology

Author:  Anthony B. Wolbarst
ISBN:  9780944838952
Published:  1993 | 461 pp. | Hardcover



SCOPE  |  Sept. 2008

This is without doubt an all-in-one book of radiotherapy physics, and even more. The title, which refers to the physics of X-rays and electrons, does not describe the whole content of the book, as the authors felt the need to top-up with extra subjects, like proton physics and radiobiology. The latter is added in the last chapter (14) probably for a supposed completeness, but it could have been very well omitted based on the book's subject.

The book is well presented; the layout is clear and follows logically through the subject. The text practically covers all important aspects in connection with radiotherapy. It starts with medical linacs and, although not complex, the information in this chapter is enough to understand the science behind them, their construction and functional parts. It is followed by a chapter regarding the interaction of radiation with matter, where physics is properly explained using a suitable proportion of mathematics and concepts. The authors provide a comprehensive description of all the dosimetric techniques of interest in the third chapter, while the calibration of beams, including several codes of practice, is placed in Chapter 8. The codes of practice mainly discussed are IAEA TRS 398 and AAPM TG 51, but others, like TG 21 NACP or early HPA protocols, are also part of the subject. I must say I find useful the comparison between some of the protocols, which is provided in a sub-chapter.

The beam properties of X-rays and electrons and their related fundamental quantities are also suitably presented over two chapters, with good illustrations and just enough equations to keep the subject simple but clear. I was pleased to find a good and thorough presentation of beam and brachytherapy models, together with the concepts, physics and also the mathematics behind them, their strengths and weaknesses. There is quite a detailed discussion about the influence of inhomogeneities on dose distributions, and the characteristics of the various correction methods used. The inclusion of Monte Carlo (MC) codes is a positive initiative, as this method becomes more popular in commercial software. It is disappointing though that the Macro MC is limited to one page, whilst this is an important and modern implementation of MC in terms of computational efficiency.

This edition is updated with modern techniques, including robotic radiosurgery and tomotherapy. A whole chapter is dedicated to these advanced procedures, where one can find a brief but plain description of their principles, technology and applications.

Another two chapters cover quality assurance and radiation protection of the treatment machines and bunkers, topics that could not be missed from the complete structure of the book.

Patient immobilisation, setup verification and treatment delivery are not forgotten, as they are fundamentally important for the accuracy aimed by radiation physicists.

Overall, the graphs, tables and pictures are well balanced. It is worth a mention here that the authors illustrated most of their discussion about radiation transport and interaction concepts using graphical Monte Carlo tracks, which I consider a great idea. Unfortunately, there are a few mistakes in the text, formulas and illustrations. One that I found quite amusing is where the abbreviation ESQ, which should mean equivalent square, is affirmed to be electrostatic quadrupoles!

To sum up, the book is a useful reference for the radiotherapy physicist - both junior and experienced. It is complete, up-to-date, and there is an adequate balance of graphics, mathematics, concepts and descriptive text.

Apart from to radiotherapy physicists, I would recommend it, even if not as a whole, to other radiotherapy professionals like radiographers or technologists.

Dr. Virgiliu Craciun

Southampton Oncology Centre