A new technique for intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) delivery is helical tomotherapy (HT). Like most IMRT delivery methods, HT utilizes many small fields as part of the treatment plan, which can be difficult to characterize. A novel technique for small field characterization, based on inter- and extrapolation of ion chamber readings, is presented in the context of HT. As a fan beam is characterized by its thickness and output factor, plane parallel chambers with different active volumes were used to scan the fan beam profiles. The fan beam thickness (FBT) can be determined from the thickness measured with the chamber by extrapolating to an infinitesimally small chamber size. The effective output was derived from the integral under the dose profile divided by the FBT. This was done for five FBTs and demonstrated a sharp fall off in dose when the FBT decreased below 8 mm. Similar techniques can be applied to other IMRT techniques to improve the characterization of various beam parameters.