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Respiratory-gated irradiation is effective in reducing the margins of a target in the case of abdominal organs, such as the liver, that change their position as a result of respiratory motion. However, existing technologies are incapable of directly measuring organ motion in real-time during radiation beam delivery. Hence, the authors proposed a novel quantitative organ motion tracking method involving the use of diagnostic ultrasound images; it is noninvasive and does not entail radiation exposure. In the present study, the authors have prospectively evaluated this proposed method.

The method involved real-time processing of clinical ultrasound imaging data rather than organ monitoring; it comprised a three-dimensional ultrasound device, a respiratory sensing system, and two PCs for data storage and analysis. The study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed method by tracking the gallbladder in one subject and a liver vein in another subject. To track a moving target organ, the method involved the control of a region of interest (ROI) that delineated the target. A tracking algorithm was used to control the ROI, and a large number of feature points and an error correction algorithm were used to achieve long-term tracking of the target. Tracking accuracy was assessed in terms of how well the ROI matched the center of the target.

The effectiveness of using a large number of feature points and the error correction algorithm in the proposed method was verified by comparing it with two simple tracking methods. The ROI could capture the center of the target for about 5 min in a cross-sectional image with changing position. Indeed, using the proposed method, it was possible to accurately track a target with a center deviation of 1.54 ± 0.9 mm. The computing time for one frame image using our proposed method was 8 ms. It is expected that it would be possible to track any soft-tissue organ or tumor with large deformations and changing cross-sectional position using this method.

The proposed method achieved real-time processing and continuous tracking of the target organ for about 5 min. It is expected that our method will enable more accurate radiation treatment than is the case using indirect observational methods, such as the respiratory sensor method, because of direct visualization of the tumor. Results show that this tracking system facilitates safe treatment in clinical practice.


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