Deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH)

Deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) is a radiation therapy technique where patients take a deep breath during treatment, and hold this breath while the radiation is delivered. By taking a deep breath in, your lungs fill with air and your heart will move away from your chest. DIBH can be useful in situations where radiation therapy is necessary in the chest region, and it is desired to avoid radiation dose to the heart.

What is DIBH used for?

DIBH is a very specific technique used in particular circumstances to minimise radiation dose to the heart. DIBH may be used for:

  • Left-sided breast cancer
  • Lymphoma in the chest region
  • Other tumours of the chest or upper abdomen as required

There are many ways to minimise the radiation dose to the heart, and DIBH is one strategy that may be suitable for some patients. As the natural position of the heart can vary greatly from person to person, this will be assessed on an individual basis by the radiation therapy team.

What does DIBH mean for you?

During DIBH you will be required to hold your breath for up to 20 seconds. This is not difficult for most people when they have practised it.

The radiation beam will only turn on when we direct you to take a deep breath in. As you take a deep breath in, the heart moves away from the treatment area (represented by the pink radiation beam) as seen in the picture below. 

This diagram is a cross section through the upper chest.
This diagram is a cross section through the upper chest.

    A helpful information sheet has been created to assist you to learn the deep inspiration breath hold technique.

The DIBH team

DIBH techniques are delivered at five of our Peter Mac radiation therapy sites: Melbourne, Bendigo, Box HillMoorabbin and Sunshine.

A team of specialists are required to plan and deliver DIBH, including radiation oncologists, radiation therapists and medical physicists. You will also be supported by a range of other professionals including nurses and allied health practitioners. The Peter Mac radiation therapy team is proud to offer this treatment, and we are dedicated to developing and progressing treatment options for the people of Victoria.

Please speak with your doctor to determine if DIBH is the appropriate treatment choice for you.