Deep Inspiration Breath Hold

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When used with radiation therapy, deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) helps limit radiation exposure to your heart and lungs. Treatment is delivered while the patient holds their breath. This pushes the treatment area away from nearby vital organs. Treatment is broken up into 20 – 30 second lots – about the time you can comfortably hold your breath.

With DIBH, when you can’t hold your breath any longer the radiation treatment will stop automatically. The treatment will only start up again when you are ready.

Before you begin treatment your care team will teach you how to build up the skill to be able to hold your breath for the required length of time.

In more detail

Deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) is used alongside radiation therapy to limit radiation exposure to the heart and lungs. It is particularly useful in treatment for patients with left sided breast cancer, thoracic cancer or abdominal cancer.

By pushing the treatment area away from the heart and lungs, radiation volumes and margins can be reduced and doses for tumours can be increased without risking the health of nearby lungs, liver, pancreas and breast.

Before using DIBH patients have their lung capacity and natural breathing cycle measured. Baseline values are set at the patient’s initial training session and the level set to the period they can comfortably hold their breath. This is usually about 20 – 30 seconds. The 3D imaging and treatment delivery is then broken into 20 – 30 second long segments, but will pause if the patient exhales.

At ARO patients can use the Elekta ABC system to guide their breathing. Using a mouth-piece and video goggles the system shows the patient when to inhale and hold their breath. DIBH can also be done “voluntarily”, without using the system. Both methods deliver good results - you can choose to use whichever is most comfortable.