Quasidiscrete scanning is a delivery strategy for proton and ion beam therapy in which the beam is turned off when a slice is finished and a new energy must be set but not during the scanning between consecutive spots. Different scanning paths lead to different dose distributions due to the contribution of the unintended transit dose between spots. In this work an algorithm to optimize the scanning path for quasidiscrete scanned beams is presented. The classical simulated annealing algorithm is used. It is a heuristic algorithm frequently used in combinatorial optimization problems, which allows us to obtain nearly optimal solutions in acceptable running times. A study focused on the best choice of operational parameters on which the algorithm performance depends is presented. The convergence properties of the algorithm have been further improved by using the next-neighbor algorithm to generate the starting paths. Scanning paths for two clinical treatments have been optimized. The optimized paths are found to be shorter than the back-and-forth, top-to-bottom (zigzag) paths generally provided by the treatment planning systems. The gamma method has been applied to quantify the improvement achieved on the dose distribution. Results show a reduction of the transit dose when the optimized paths are used. The benefit is clear especially when the fluence per spot is low, as in the case of repainting. The minimization of the transit dose can potentially allow the use of higher beam intensities, thus decreasing the treatment time. The algorithm implemented for this work can optimize efficiently the scanning path of quasidiscrete scanned particle beams. Optimized scanning paths decrease the transit dose and lead to better dose distributions.
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