In accidental exposure to ionizing radiation, it is essential to estimate the dose received by the victims. Currently dicentric scoring is the best biological indicator of exposure. The standard biological dosimetry procedure (500 metaphases scored manually) is suitable for a few dose estimations, but the time needed for analysis can be problematic in the case of a large-scale accident. Recently, a new methodology using automatic detection of dicentrics has greatly decreased the time needed for dose estimation and preserves the accuracy of the estimation. However, the capability to detect nonhomogeneous partial-body exposures is an important advantage of dicentric scoring-based biodosimetry, and this remains to be tested with automatic scoring. Thus we analyzed the results obtained with in vitro blood dilutions and in real cases of accidental exposure (partial- or whole-body exposure) using manual scoring and automatic detection of dicentrics. We confirmed that automatic detection allows threefold quicker dicentric scoring than the manual procedure with similar dose estimations and uncertainty intervals. The results concerning partial-body exposures were particularly promising, and homogeneously exposed samples were correctly distinguished from heterogeneously exposed samples containing 5% to 75% of blood irradiated with 2 Gy. In addition, the results obtained for real accident cases were similar whatever the methodology used. This study demonstrates that automatic detection of dicentrics is a credible alternative for recent and acute cases of whole- and partial-body accidental exposures to ionizing radiation.
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Vol. 178 • No. 4