IPEM Topical Report: A 2018 IPEM survey of MRI use for external beam radiotherapy treatment planning in the UK

Richard Speight, Maria A. Schmidt, Gary P. Liney, Robert I. Johnstone, Cynthia L. Eccles, Michael Dubec, Ben George, Ann Henry, Hazel McCallum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The benefits of integrating MRI into the radiotherapy pathway are well published, however there is little consensus in guidance on how to commission or implement its use. With a view to developing consensus guidelines for the use of MRI in external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) treatment planning in the UK, a survey was undertaken by an Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) working-party to assess the current landscape of MRI use in EBRT in the UK. A multi-disciplinary working-party developed a survey to understand current practice using MRI for EBRT treatment planning; investigate how MRI is currently used and managed; and identify knowledge gaps. The survey was distributed electronically to radiotherapy service managers and physics leads in 71 UK radiotherapy (RT) departments (all NHS and private groups). The survey response rate was 87% overall, with 89% of NHS and 75% of private centres responding. All responding centres include EBRT in some RT pathways: 94% using Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) images potentially acquired without any input from RT departments, and 69% had some form of MRI access for planning EBRT. Most centres reporting direct access use a radiology scanner within the same hospital in dedicated (26%) or non-dedicated (52%) RT scanning sessions. Only two centres reported having dedicated RT MRI scanners in the UK, lower than reported in other countries. Six percent of radiotherapy patients in England (data not publically available outside of England) have MRI as part of their treatment, which again is lower than reported elsewhere. Although a substantial number of centres acquire MRI scans for treatment planning purposes, most centres acquire less than five patient scans per month for each treatment site. Commissioning and quality assurance of both image registration and MRI scanners was found to be variable across the UK. In addition, staffing models and training given to different staff groups varied considerably across the UK, reflecting the current lack of national guidelines. The primary barriers reported to MRI implementation in EBRT planning included costs (e.g. lack of a national tariff for planning MRI), lack of MRI access and/or capacity within hospitals. Despite these challenges, significant interest remains in increasing MRI-assisted EBRT planning over the next five years.

Original languageEnglish
Article number175021
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number17
Early online date26 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2019


  • audit
  • MRI
  • radiotherapy
  • Survey
  • UK

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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