Austin Center RADIATION Oncology

Radiation machine: Linear Accelerator

radiation machine
Image courtesy of Varian Medical System, Inc. All rights reserved.

The radiation machine that is used to administer external beam radiation is called a Linear Accelerator (LINAC). The LINAC uses microwave technology to deliver high energy x-rays (radiation) to the cancerous tumor.

At the Austin Center Radiation Oncology, our machine is a Clinac iX medical linear accelerator from Varian Medical Systems with Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). The automated robotic technology allows the radiation oncologist to deliver the most accurate treatment possible with the use of an on-board, three-dimensional imaging system.

How does the radiation machine work?

When undergoing external beam radiation, the patient will start by lying on a movable table called the treatment couch. At this point, the radiation therapist will use a laser guide to align to medical tattoos that have been placed on the patient’s body. These tattoos are utilized to make sure that the patient is lying in the exact same position each time they are being treated. A specialized body mold, called a Vac-lok, is also placed under the hips and legs of the patient for the same purpose. The treatment couch can move in all directions – up, down, forward, backward, right and left. During treatment, a high energy radiation beam will be released from a part of the accelerator called the gantry. The gantry can rotate 360 degrees around the patient so that the radiation can be delivered to tumors at any angle.

Who operates the equipment?

Initially, the patient’s radiation oncologist prescribes the treatment and dosage.  Working along side the radiation oncologist is a medical physicist who determines how best to deliver the prescribed doses, and who calculates the time needed for each dose. Once the treatment plan is in place, a radiation therapist operates the LINAC that gives the patient their daily treatment. The radiation therapist can see the patient at all times through a closed circuit television camera.

If you have been diagnosed with prostate, bladder, testicular or bone cancer and would like to learn about the potential benefits of radiation therapy, contact us at 512-687-1950 to schedule a consultation.