Improvements in an in vivo neutron activation analysis (NAA) method for the measurement of fluorine in human bone

F. Mostafaei, F. E. McNeill, D. R. Chettle, W. V. Prestwich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We previously published a method for the in vivo measurement of bone fluoride using neutron activation analysis (NAA) and demonstrated the utility of the technique in a pilot study of environmentally exposed people. The method involved activation of the hand in an irradiation cavity at the McMaster University Accelerator Laboratory and acquisition of the resultant γ-ray signals in a '4π' NaI(Tl) detector array of nine detectors. In this paper we describe a series of improvements to the method. This was investigated via measurement of hand simulating phantoms doped with varying levels of fluorine and fixed amounts of sodium, chlorine and calcium. Four improvements to the technique were tested since our first publication. The previously published detection limit for phantom measurements using this system was 0.66 mg F/g Ca. The accelerator irradiation and detection facilities were relocated to a new section of the laboratory and one more detector was added to the detection system. This was found to reduce the detection limit (possibly because of better detection shielding and additional detector) to 0.59 mg F/g Ca, a factor of 1.12. A new set of phantoms was developed and in this work we show that they improved the minimum detectable limit for fluoride in phantoms irradiated using neutrons produced by 2.15 MeV protons on lithium by a factor of 1.55. We compared the detection limits previously obtained using a summed signal from the nine detectors with the detection limit obtained by acquiring the spectra in anticoincidence mode for reduction of the disturbing signal from chlorine in bone. This was found to improve the ratio of the detection of fluorine to chlorine (an interfering signal) by a factor of 2.8 and the resultant minimum detection limit was found to be reduced by a factor of 1.2. We studied the effects of changing the timing of γ-ray acquisition. Our previously published data used a series of three 10 s acquisitions followed by a 300 s count. Changing the acquisition to a series of six 5 s acquisitions was found to further improve the detection limit by a factor of 1.4. We also present data showing that if the neutron dose is delivered to the phantom in a shorter time period, i.e. the dose rate is increased and irradiation shortened then the detection limit can be reduced by a further factor of 1.35.The overall improvement in detection limit by employing all of these changes was found to be a factor of 3.9. The technique now has an in phantom detection limit of 0.17 mg F/g Ca compared to a previous detection limit of 0.66 mg F/g Ca. The system can now be tested on human volunteers to see if individuals with diagnosed fluorosis can be distinguished from the general Canadian population using this technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1329-1341
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • bone
  • fluorine
  • in vivo
  • neutron activation analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Physiology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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