Rectal dose sparing with a balloon catheter and ultrasound localization in conformal radiation therapy for prostate cancer

Rakesh R. Patel, Nigel Orton, Wolfgang A. Tomé, Rick Chappell, Mark A. Ritter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Background and purpose: To compare the rectal wall and bladder volume in the high dose region with or without the use of a balloon catheter with both three-dimensional (3D)-conformal and intensity modulated radiation therapy (CRT, IMRT) approaches in the treatment of prostate cancer. Material and methods: Five patients with a wide range of prostate volumes and treated with primary external beam radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer were selected for analysis. Pinnacle™ treatment plans were generated utilizing a 3D conformal six-field design and an IMRT seven coplanar-field plan with a novel, three-step optimization and with ultrasound localization. Separate plans were devised with a rectal balloon deflated or air inflated with and without inclusion of the seminal vesicles (SV) in the target volume. The prescription dose was 76 Gy in 38 fractions of 2 Gy each. Cumulative dose-volume histograms (DVHs) were analyzed for the planning target volume (PTV), rectal wall, and bladder with an inflated (60 cc air) or deflated balloon with and without SV included. The volumes of rectal wall and bladder above 60, 65, and 70 Gy with each treatment approach were evaluated. Results: Daily balloon placement was well-tolerated with good patient positional reproducibility. Inflation of the rectal balloon in all cases resulted in a significant decrease in the absolute volume of rectal wall receiving greater than 60, 65, or 70 Gy. The rectal sparing ratio (RSR), consisting of a structure's high dose volume with the catheter inflated, divided by the volume with the catheter deflated, was calculated for each patient with and without seminal vesicle inclusion for 3D-CRT and IMRT. For 3D-CRT, RSRs with SV included were 0.59, 0.59, and 0.56 and with SV excluded were 0.60, 0.58, and 0.54 at doses of greater than 60, 65, and 70 Gy, respectively. Similarly, for IMRT, the mean RSRs were 0.59, 0.59, and 0.63 including SV and 0.71, 0.66, and 0.67 excluding SV at these same dose levels, respectively. Averaged over all conditions, inflation of the rectal balloon resulted in a significant reduction in rectal volume receiving ≥65 Gy to a mean ratio of 0.61 (P=0.01) or, in other words, a mean fractional high dose rectal sparing of 39%. There was a slight overall increase to 1.13 in the relative volume of bladder receiving at least 65 Gy; however, this was not significant (P=0.6). Use of an endorectal balloon with a non-image-guided 3D-CRT plan produced about as much rectal dose sparing as a highly conformal, image-guided IMRT approach without a balloon. However, inclusion of a balloon with IMRT produced further rectal sparing still. Conclusion: These results indicate that use of a rectal balloon with a 3D-CRT plan incorporating typical treatment margins will produce significant high dose rectal sparing that is comparable to that achieved by a highly conformal IMRT with ultrasound localization. Further sparing is achieved with the inclusion of a balloon catheter in an IMRT plan. Thus, in addition to a previously reported advantage of prostate immobilization, the use of a rectal displacement balloon during daily treatment results in high dose rectal wall sparing during both modestly and highly conformal radiotherapy. Such sparing could assist in controlling and limiting rectal toxicity during increasingly aggressive dose escalation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-294
Number of pages10
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Conformal radiotherapy
  • Endorectal balloon
  • Prostate cancer
  • Rectal toxicity
  • Ultrasound localization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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