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Respiratory gating is an innovative process that uses advanced computer software to guide the delivery of radiation as a patient breathes. A tumor can sometimes move during treatment, especially if it is located in an area of the body that naturally moves as a result of respiration, such as the lungs, chest or abdomen. With gating software, a patient’s treatment team can create a tailored treatment plan to account for the subtle changes in tumor positioning that can continually occur over the course of seconds.

Benefits of respiratory gating

Respiratory gating allows a physician to define a treatment “window,” then deliver radiation only when the tumor passes through this predefined region. For instance, some gating systems turn off the beam of radiation when the tumor leaves the window, then turn it back on when the tumor reenters the targeted treatment field. Often used with intensity modulated radiation therapy and other highly precise radiation delivery techniques, respiratory gating can improve the accuracy and effectiveness of radiation treatment.

Other benefits of respiratory gating include:

  • Condensed treatment schedules – Because the X-ray beams are more narrowly targeted, a physician may be able to deliver a higher radiation dosage within fewer sessions, making treatment more convenient for a patient.
  • Minimal effect on healthy tissue – To ensure the delivery of a proper dosage when targeting a moving tumor, a physician must usually deliver radiation to the entire area that the tumor passes through. By using respiratory gating to precisely focus the X-ray beams on a moving tumor, a physician can minimize exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
  • More comfort and convenience – Prior to the development of gating technologies, patients were sometimes asked to hold their breath while treatment was being administered. Patients with lung cancer or other complications often found this to be difficult, whereas gating requires no effort on the part of a patient.

Deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) and breast cancer treatment

While respiratory gating is effective for many patients, other approaches may sometimes be necessary. For example, a deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) is a technique that can be used when delivering radiation therapy to certain breast cancer patients to help the heart avoid radiation exposure. During a DIBH, the patient inhales deeply and holds their breath for around 20 seconds. This allows the diaphragm—the large, dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the lungs—to push the heart further from the chest and out of the way during radiation therapy.

Moffitt’s advanced approach to radiation therapy

The latest advances in radiation treatment, including respiratory gating, are available at Moffitt Cancer Center—Florida’s No. 1 cancer hospital. Our Radiation Therapy Program is based on the collective efforts of a multispecialty team of cancer experts, including some of the most experienced radiation oncologists, dosimetrists, medical physicists, radiation therapists, dedicated radiosurgical nurses and supportive care specialists in the nation. In our American College of Radiology (ACR)-accredited facility, each patient’s treatment plan is created, carried out and monitored by this collaborative tumor board, using a combination of technologies that are specifically selected to improve the patient’s prognosis and quality of life. In fact, Moffitt’s cancer survival rates are up to four times higher than national averages.

To learn more about respiratory gating and other radiation therapy options, call 1-888-663-3488 or request an appointment by completing a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.