Meeting radiation dosimetry capacity requirements of population-scale exposures by geostatistical sampling
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BACKGROUND: Accurate radiation dose estimates are critical for determining eligibility for therapies by timely triaging of exposed individuals after large-scale radiation events. However, the universal assessment of a large population subjected to a nuclear spill incident or detonation is not feasible. Even with high-throughput dosimetry analysis, test volumes far exceed the capacities of first responders to measure radiation exposures directly, or to acquire and process samples for follow-on biodosimetry testing. AIM: To significantly reduce data acquisition and processing requirements for triaging of treatment-eligible exposures in population-scale radiation incidents. METHODS: Physical radiation plumes modelled nuclear detonation scenarios of simulated exposures at 22 US locations. Models assumed only location of the epicenter and historical, prevailing wind directions/speeds. The spatial boundaries of graduated radiation exposures were determined by targeted, multistep geostatistical analysis of small population samples. Initially, locations proximate to these sites were randomly sampled (generally 0.1% of population). Empirical Bayesian kriging established radiation dose contour levels circumscribing these sites. Densification of each plume identified critical locations for additional sampling. After repeated kriging and densification, overlapping grids between each pair of contours of successive plumes were compared based on their diagonal Bray-Curtis distances and root-mean-square deviations, which provided criteria (<10% difference) to discontinue sampling. RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS: We modeled 30 scenarios, including 22 urban/high-density and 2 rural/low-density scenarios under various weather conditions. Multiple (3-10) rounds of sampling and kriging were required for the dosimetry maps to converge, requiring between 58 and 347 samples for different scenarios. On average, 70±10% of locations where populations are expected to receive an exposure ≥2Gy were identified. Under sub-optimal sampling conditions, the number of iterations and samples were increased, and accuracy was reduced. Geostatistical mapping limits the number of required dose assessments, the time required, and radiation exposure to first responders. Geostatistical analysis will expedite triaging of acute radiation exposure in population-scale nuclear events.