In 1985, the Biomedical Physics Department was created by amalgamating together the departments of Medical Physics, Health Physics and Gamma Irradiation Facility, which were among the first seven major divisions of the Research Centre at KFSH&RC. All three previous departments were reformed as sections of the Department.
In the same year, the Electronics Section and a research laboratory for experimental therapy studies were established. At present, the Department consists of five sections and four core facilities.
The Department mission is to seek, apply, and disseminate concepts and methods for effective and safe use of radiation in diagnosis and treatment of human diseases, and to continue improving and expanding such use through clinical research activities.
The Department is committed to providing high-quality physics support for the application of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation in clinical services to ensure the best health care possible for our patients. Enhancing their knowledge and skills through continuing education and training opportunities is also an important part of the department mission.
Education and Training
The Radiation Physics Section (RPS) focuses on the therapeutic applications of radiation in medicine. The primary activities are devoted to clinical physics and quality assurance services for cancer patients receiving radiation therapy. The RPS aims to provide the best clinical physics and quality assurance services to radiation oncology and also to maintain a continuous quality improvement program.
The RPS is the largest section in the department. Its responsibilities include quality control for the therapeutic linear accelerators, simulators, CT scanners, treatment planning systems and brachytherapy equipment. The section also plays a vital role in selecting suitable radiation therapy equipment, designing facilities’ shielding and obtaining accurate data from equipment used for clinical services. The section supports the treatment of more than 1,500 cancer patients per year by providing more than 3,000 medical physics procedures annually.
In 2006, the RPS, in collaboration with the Oncology Center, launched a state-of-the-art intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) service, which became the de facto cancer treatment technique at KFSH&RC covering more than 24 tumor sites. In 2009, RPS spearheaded the program for the procurement of the advanced modes of high-precision and innovative radiotherapy techniques, TomoTherapy, CyberKnife and RapidArc, as well as for the acquisition of a new large-bore CT scanner. Future plans for expanding the treatment services include Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), Intra-Operative Radiation Therapy (IORT) and Hadron therapy. Our principle aim is to operate a centre of excellence in clinical medical physics and radiation oncology. Specific duties of the RPS include:
The Clinical Dosimetry and Treatment Planning Unit (CDTPU) is a sub-section of the RPS. It comprises of medical dosimetrists and physicists. The group works closely in collaboration with radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, imaging physicists, radiologists, surgeons and radiation biologists. It is charged with conducting radiation treatment plans and dosimetric calculations for a wide variety of malignant cancers and benign diseases.
The aim of radiation treatment planning is to design plans that optimize the dose to tumor volumes while minimizing the dose that vital organs and normal tissues receive. This is achieved with sophisticated computer algorithms and state-of-the-art planning techniques using various radiation energies, beam modifiers, intensity modulation, etc. The latest image fusion techniques are used to fuse CT with MR and PET images to assist the radiation oncologists in delineating tumors accurately. Extensive QA is performed regularly to ensure that actual treatment is delivered as planned.
Every plan and calculation performed by dosimetrist or physicist also have an independent check by another physics staff member. Also, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) plans are further checked with sophisticated QA software before the patients are treated.
IMRT was implemented in July 2006 for the first time to treat a patient with nasopharyngeal cancer. KFSH&RC was the first institution to employ this state of the art technique in the Kingdom. Currently, in the Kingdom only IMRT is able to conform to complex tumor volumes while better sparing adjacent critical organs. However, KFSH&RC will soon again be at the forefront by introducing new modalities that will possibly even improve on what IMRT offers. Clinical consultation is provided to radiation oncologists to assist in offering the best possible individual treatment plans for their patients.
Imaging Physics is a branch of medical physics, which is concerned, with the application of physics to the diagnosis of human disease. The main areas of interest are in diagnostic imaging with x-rays, ultrasound and nuclear magnetic resonance, and in the diagnostic/functional imaging of radioisotopes in nuclear medicine.
The Imaging Physics Section (IPS) primary responsibility has been to provide support services to the KFSH&RC departments of Radiology, Cardiology, OR, and Dentistry (and surrounding satellite clinics), so as to ensure that optimal image quality is attained and maintained in all imaging modalities. Image quality is maintained in all of the following equipment:
The IPS conducts a comprehensive quality control program, utilizing an assortment of state-of-the-art instrumentation for radiation detection and measurement, numerous quality control test tools, various industry standard imaging phantoms and vendor specific diagnostic software.
In addition to the above, the IPS staff is also involved in:
The extensive testing equipment facilities and expertise makes it a frequent training facility for institutions of higher education in the Kingdom and for other facilities interested in establishing similar quality control program.
The role of the Health Physics Section (HPS) is defined based on the importance of establishing a rigorous radiation protection program within the KFSH&RC as chartered in 1975. The Section provides technical support to departments utilizing radiation-producing equipment or radioactive materials to help meet radiation-related regulations and compliance requirements. The Section is also responsible for radiation surveys of work areas and equipment, personal dose monitoring, patients and staff dose assessment.
The HPS plays a vital role in the hospital in limiting the risk from radiation exposure to patients, staff and members of the public. It promotes proper usage of radiation and strives to lessen radiation exposure to minimal levels. The Section is recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a center for training in radiation protection and measurements.
The Section complies with existing regulations and recommendations from the ICRP, ICRU, NCRP and IAEA in establishing and enforcing good radiation safety policies and practices by contributing to continuing education programs in radiation usage and protection. It also collaborates with other institutions in enforcing the application of existing methods, techniques, and equipment for the protection of their patients and staff.
The HPS maintains a personnel radiation dose monitoring service based on thermoluminescent dosimetry (TLD) that is licensed by King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) and accredited by IAEA. In doing so, the Section meets the high international standards for radiation protection. It utilizes two state-of-the-art Harshaw 6600 automated TLD systems to read and analyze the TLD cards (uniquely identified with bar code reference numbers) and a Personnel Dose Information System (PDIS) for electronic storage of dose records, computerized dose calculation and report generation. This service is provided to KFSH&RC staff and also many hospitals, government and private institutions in the Kingdom and throughout the Gulf region at a very reasonable cost.
The Section provides support and assistance to radiation users by formulating proper codes of practice and implementation of regulations. It distributes and processes radiation monitoring equipment, evaluates the results and maintains employee exposure records. The section also performs periodic monitoring of radiation areas and measures, with portable or fixed instruments, fields of radiation, air or water-borne radioactivity, movement of radioactive material and possible radioactive contamination. The section generates contingency plans for handling radiation-related emergencies. It also performs shielding calculations for installations involving radiation, reviews shielding plans, confirms exact measurements of facilities after the installation of radiation sources and assesses shielding integrity.
The establishment of the Secondary Standard Dosimetry Laboratory (SSDL) is a significant achievement for KFSH&RC. It provides calibration of radiation measuring instruments used within the hospital and extends its calibration services throughout the Kingdom and the Gulf region.
Sophisticated radiation measuring and experimental work must be done with instruments in order to calibrate them against a standardized source traceable to a recognized primary radiation dosimetry laboratory. This laboratory compares its standards with reference laboratories around the world such as the NBS, NPL, and the IAEA. In June 1988, the SSDL of the Biomedical Physics Department was accepted as a member of the joint IAEA/WHO network of Secondary Standard Dosimetry Laboratories.
The Radiobiology Section (RBS) provides the biological basis of the many uses of radiation in medicine and allied health professions. The RBS is devoted to investigating the actions of radiation on living materials and organisms. It covers the three major clinical radiological specialties: diagnostic radiology, nuclear medicine, and radiation therapy, along with the potential detrimental effects on the general population from non-medical uses of different types of radiation.
The RBS laboratory works in close collaboration with radiation oncologists and other physicians in the hospital. Radiation therapy is a major arm of cancer treatment along with surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and emerging immune and gene therapy. The radiosensitivity of tumors and normal tissues varies considerably among patients. These variations are mainly governed by genetic factors. Works focus on studying the genetic determinants of radiosensitivity in Saudi cancer patients. The aim is to identify a predictive test that will allow for tailoring of the cancer treatment regimen for each individual patient. The objective is to improve treatment outcome by increasing tumor control while reducing complications in normal tissues and improving the quality of life for cancer survivors.
Gamma irradiation is a simple and safe process involving the exposure of products to radiation from an intense cobalt-60 gamma source, for a predetermined time so as to receive a prescribed sterilizing dose. Being a 'cold' process, heat-sensitive materials like plastics can be effectively sterilized so as to be extensively used for manufacturing of medical products with flexibility in packaging and shape of the products.
The Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF) aim is to provide gamma irradiation services for sterilization, disinfection and radiation effect studies for KFSH&RC departments and healthcare products' manufacturers in the Kingdom.
GIF was established in 1980 for the sterilization of healthcare products at KFSH&RC. Nowadays, GIF offers commercial sterilization services to manufacturers of healthcare and pharmaceutical products. Consequently, single use, pre-packed and sterilized health care products have become available on a large scale. The products commonly sterilized by gamma radiation include cotton products (e.g., gauze and dressings), metallic products (e.g., tubes, needles and surgical blades), pharmaceuticals (e.g., ophthalmic ointments and antibiotic powders), plastic and rubber products (e.g., gloves, catheters and Petri dishes), contraceptives, sutures and beauty and cosmetic powders. All processing parameters are validated by international standards such as IAEA, & ISO-11137 guidelines for the operation of gamma sterilization irradiators.
We expose products to gamma radiation at different doses to produce sterilization or disinfection, conduct scientific experiments on materials to study the effect of radiation and its compatibility with sterilization and advise our customers on the compatibility of packaging materials and good manufacturing practice.
The Molecular and Functional Imaging (MFI) Section is a newly formed multi-disciplinary research group. Its mission is to stimulate and conduct research in the fields of molecular and functional imaging in close collaboration and cooperation with inter- and intra-institutional stakeholders, including industry.
The MFI is committed to leadership and excellence in advancing the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human diseases through its tripartite mission focused on research, education and community service highlighted by cutting-edge research in the fields of molecular and functional imaging. As such, the MFI group will strive to achieve the following objectives: