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Mineral content changes in bone associated with damage induced by the electron beam.

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PMID: 16268176


Energy-dispersive x-ray (EDX) spectroscopy and backscattered electron (BSE) imaging are finding increased use for determining mineral content in microscopic regions of bone. Electron beam bombardment, however, can damage the tissue, leading to erroneous interpretations of mineral content. We performed elemental (EDX) and mineral content (BSE) analyses on bone tissue in order to quantify observable deleterious effects in the context of (1) prolonged scanning time, (2) scan versus point (spot) mode, (3) low versus high magnification, and (4) embedding in poly-methylmethacrylate (PMMA). Undemineralized cortical bone specimens from adult human femora were examined in three groups: 200x embedded, 200x unembedded, and 1000x embedded. Coupled BSE/EDX analyses were conducted five consecutive times, with no location analyzed more than five times. Variation in the relative proportions of calcium (Ca), phosphorous (P), and carbon (C) were measured using EDX spectroscopy, and mineral content variations were inferred from changes in mean gray levels ("atomic number contrast") in BSE images captured at 20 keV. In point mode at 200x, the embedded specimens exhibited a significant increase in Ca by the second measurement (7.2%, p < 0.05); in scan mode, a small and statistically nonsignificant increase (1.0%) was seen by the second measurement. Changes in P were similar, although the increases were less. The apparent increases in Ca and P likely result from decreases in C: -3.2% (p < 0.05) in point mode and -0.3% in scan mode by the second measurement. Analysis of unembedded specimens showed similar results. In contrast to embedded specimens at 200x, 1000x data showed significantly larger variations in the proportions of Ca, P, and C by the second or third measurement in scan and point mode. At both magnifications, BSE image gray level values increased (suggesting increased mineral content) by the second measurement, with increases up to 23% in point mode. These results show that mineral content measurements can be reliable when using coupled BSE/EDX analyses in PMMA-embedded bone if lower magnifications are used in scan mode and if prolonged exposure to the electron beam is avoided. When point mode is used to analyze minute regions, adjustments in accelerating voltages and probe current may be required to minimize damage.

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