Gamma Ray Nuclear Resonance Absorption: An Alternative Method for in Vivo Body Composition Studies
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We have evaluated gamma ray nuclear resonance absorption (gamma-NRA) on nitrogen, a mature technology proposed and developed by Soreq NRC for detecting explosives, as an alternative to neutron activation for in vivo assaying of body nitrogen. The principles of the gamma-NRA method are outlined, and a test facility constructed at McMaster University's Accelerator Laboratory is described. The results of a feasibility study recently performed there on phantoms and animal tissue are presented and discussed. gamma-NRA is a full imaging technique that essentially constitutes element-specific absorptiometry--i.e., it can generate projections of the mass distribution for a specific element, along with a conventional radiograph of the patient. From the transmission profile of an individual scanned by 9.17 MeV gamma rays, local or whole body nitrogen content can be determined via the resonant attenuation undergone when the beam encounters regions of nitrogen concentration. The advantages of gamma-NRA over neutron activation are (a) radiation doses delivered to the body are at least one order of magnitude lower, thus allowing repeated measurements on individual patients and also rendering the method ethically acceptable for application to children; (b) gamma-NRA is inherently free from uncertainties related to nonuniform distributions of the element in question within the body; (c) it is applicable to patients of varying size and shape; and (d) it yields both nitrogen images and conventional radiographic images of the body.
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