A microcomputer algorithm for solving first-order compartmental models involving recycling

Alan Birchall*, A. C. James

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


general algorithm for solving first-order compartmental models including recycling systems has been developed and its implementation on a microcomputer is described. Matrix algebra is used to obtain for any compartmental model an analytical solution, which is expressed as the exponential of a matrix of rate constants. A special technique is used in the algorithm to enable this exponential to be evaluated with a rapidly converging series. Truncation errors incurred in this process are estimated automatically. Thus, in an extreme case, where these errors may be significant, the appropriate action can be taken. Given a particular model, the user enters the model parameters into a rate matrix according to a simple rule. The algorithm then uses this matrix to solve the model, and thus no specialized mathematical knowledge is needed. The algorithm is given in a short BASIC program (60 lines) llisted in an appendix. No additional software is required. By running this program on a standard microcomputer, the user can solve models of any complexity: those up to 15 compartments in seconds and those up to 30 compartments within a minute. The algorithm is thus ideally suited to solve kinetic models describing the transport of radionuclides in the environment or the translocation of elements in biological systems such as the metabolic models recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). Given the initial amount of material in each compartment at time t = 0, together with its radioactive decay constant, the algorithm gives both the amount in each compartment at any future time t and the number of disintegrations that will have tmurred in each compartment up to time t. The computer program, shown in an appendix, could easily be used to calculate disintegrations over any time interval of interest, or to predict the quantities or fractions of an intake expected to be present in any in vivo or excretion compartments of interest. Thus, the algorithm can be useful in both the design and conduct of bioassay and internal dose assessment procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-868
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Physics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1989

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