Orthovoltage energies for palliative care in the 21st century: Is there a need?

October 13, 2010


The primary objective was to describe the patterns of practice for patients with rib metastases who were treated with radiation therapy for pain relief. The secondary objective was to determine if wait times and better access to radiation treatment for this patient population could be improved with the utilization of an orthovoltage treatment machine.


Cancer registry data for patients with rib disease and radiation therapy technique were collected from January 2007 to December 2008. The data was examined to establish the utilization rate of orthovoltage treatment.


The data demonstrated that orthovoltage treatment was an underutilized technique for the palliative treatment of rib disease. More than half of the patients were treated with high energy (6 MV) photon beam with either a single direct photon field (16.2%) or a two field photon technique (47.4%). Electron beam technique represented 35.1% of treatments while orthovoltage constituted only 1.2% of rib treatments.


The use of orthovoltage X-ray beams has been demonstrated to be an underutilized radiotherapy treatment technique at this institution. Orthovoltage treatment is a simple radiotherapy technique with a short setup time that may be a solution for minimizing treatment burden for an already overburdened patient population.

Laura D’Alimonte, Emily Sinclair & Sharon Seed

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