Internal contamination by actinides after wounding: a robust rodent model for assessment of local and distant actinide retention

Health Phys. 2012 Aug;103(2):187-94. doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e31825aa202.


Internal contamination by actinides following wounding may occur in nuclear fuel industry workers or subsequent to terrorist activities, causing dissemination of radioactive elements. Contamination by alpha particle emitting actinides can result in pathological effects, either local or distant from the site of entry. The objective of the present study was to develop a robust experimental approach in the rat for short- and long- term actinide contamination following wounding by incision of the skin and muscles of the hind limb. Anesthetized rats were contaminated with Mixed OXide (MOX, uranium, plutonium oxides containing 7.1% plutonium) or plutonium nitrate (Pu nitrate) following wounding by deep incision of the hind leg. Actinide excretion and tissue levels were measured as well as histological changes from 2 h to 3 mo. Humid swabs were used for rapid evaluation of contamination levels and proved to be an initial guide for contamination levels. Although the activity transferred from wound to blood is higher after contamination with a moderately soluble form of plutonium (nitrate), at 7 d most of the MOX (98%) or Pu nitrate (87%) was retained at the wound site. Rapid actinide retention in liver and bone was observed within 24 h, which increased up to 3 mo. After MOX contamination, a more rapid initial urinary excretion of americium was observed compared with plutonium. At 3 mo, around 95% of activity remained at the wound site, and excretion of Pu and Am was extremely low. This experimental approach could be applied to other situations involving contamination following wounding including rupture of the dermal, vascular, and muscle barriers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extremities / injuries
  • Extremities / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Models, Animal*
  • Oxides / chemistry*
  • Plutonium / chemistry*
  • Plutonium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Radioactivity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors
  • Uranium Compounds / pharmacokinetics*
  • Wounds and Injuries / metabolism*
  • Wounds and Injuries / pathology


  • Oxides
  • Uranium Compounds
  • Plutonium
  • uranium oxide