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Brachytherapy: common pitfalls
  1. Y Jessica Huang and
  2. David Gaffney
  1. Radiation Oncology, University of Utah Health Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Y Jessica Huang, Radiation Oncology, University of Utah Health Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Jessica.Huang{at}


Gynecologic radiation oncology is a demanding area of oncology requiring expertise in external beam and brachytherapy. Both physicians and physicists are called on to use their full complement of skills to employ state-of-the-art treatments to benefit patients. A wide variety of unusual presentations are frequent in gynecology, and hence, it is necessary to have a number of techniques available to offer the optimal treatments. The heterogeneity of treatments and the rarity of certain gynecological presentations lead to complexity and potential error. We reviewed previous gynecological high dose rate brachytherapy treatment images and plans for patients from the past decade and identified examples of common problems to share with the community. The strategies to prevent or recover from these pitfalls are also presented. With increasing number of applicator choices, it is critical for clinics to follow rigorous commissioning steps to ensure treatment process safety as described. The clinics should consider implementing a thorough on-boarding program and regular hands-on practice as a continuous quality improvement measure. The use of checklists can be invaluable and result in fewer human errors. Gynecological chart rounds that focus on brachytherapy are also encouraged. Lastly, an incident learning system to document small deviations that occur in the process, and a rigorous root cause analysis process could help prevent potential future incidents.

  • radiation oncology
  • brachytherapy

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  • Contributors The authors confirm equal contribution on study design, data collection, case analysis, and manuscript preparation. All authors reviewed the results and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.