This page explains more information regarding the radiotherapy treatment technique of Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH). It will explain what to expect when you come for your planning session and treatment at the Radiotherapy department.
What is Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH)?
DIBH is a painless breathing technique whereby you hold your breath for at least 20 seconds during your planning computed tomography (CT) scan and during your radiotherapy treatment.
Breath Hold Technique
While you are waiting for your planning appointment or while you are waiting for your treatment to start, you can practice this breathing technique.
You should lie on your back and place your hands on your lower ribs so that the tips of your middle fingers touch each other. As you begin to inhale, subtly tighten your front abdominal muscles just enough to prevent your belly from rising. Continue inhaling without allowing your belly to rise or fall.
On exhalation keep your abdomen completely level as you allow your ribs to return to their starting position and your middle finger tips will touch as before.
Once you have become familiar with the breathing technique, raise your arms above your head and continue to practice in this position.
What happens during my CT scan for DIBH?
The CT radiographers will explain the procedure for the scan and they will practice the DIBH technique with you.
They will then place a small monitoring box onto your abdomen and you will be asked to breathe in and out twice and to take a deeper breath in and to hold your breath for 20 seconds. The radiographers will then draw some non-permanent marks onto your skin and take other measurements while you hold your breath. This will allow us to monitor that you are able to hold your breath for long enough.
Your breaths should be consistent so that when the radiographers ask you to breath away normally, you should relax back to your initial position.
For the scan the radiographers will leave the room and talk to you through the intercom.
If you are able to hold your breath for your scan, you must keep practising your breathing at home while you are waiting for your treatment to start.
If you are not able to hold your breath or if you are not consistent, the radiographers will ask you to practice at home for a week and then bring you back for another scan.
However, if the radiographers decide to proceed with the scan while you are breathing normally, the planning team will ensure that your heart is shielded using another effective measure.
What happens during DIBH radiotherapy treatment?
When you come for your treatment the radiographers will practise the DIBH technique with you before you start your treatment; they will place the small monitoring box onto your abdomen and some pen marks on your skin. This will allow us to monitor your breathing throughout the treatment.
During your treatment, the radiographers will communicate with you via the intercom and they are also able to see you on the CCTV.
If during your treatment you are not able to maintain your breath or if your breaths are not consistent, the monitoring sensors will automatically stop the treatment and the radiographers will ask you again to return to breath-hold and continue with treatment.
After the treatment has been delivered the radiographers will tell you to breathe out normally.
Useful sources of information
Any questions regarding DIBH, please contact your treatment or planning therapy radiographer. For advice or if you need further information contact the radiotherapy planning team on (01604) 523490 or you canvisit the Cancer Information centre in the Oncology Centre.
Opening hours for the centre are 10.00am - 4.00pm, Monday- Friday.
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This information can be provided in other languages and formats upon request including Braille, audio cassette and CD. Please contact (01604) 523442 or the Patient Advice & Liaison Service (PALS) on (01604) 545784, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information was taken from Northampton General Hospital leaflet NGV2218 (Dec 2019).