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J Opt Soc Am A Opt Image Sci Vis. 1994 Oct;11(10):2727-41.

Boundary conditions for the diffusion equation in radiative transfer.

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Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California 91711.


Using the method of images, we examine the three boundary conditions commonly applied to the surface of a semi-infinite turbid medium. We find that the image-charge configurations of the partial-current and extrapolated-boundary conditions have the same dipole and quadrupole moments and that the two corresponding solutions to the diffusion equation are approximately equal. In the application of diffusion theory to frequency-domain photon-migration (FDPM) data, these two approaches yield values for the scattering and absorption coefficients that are equal to within 3%. Moreover, the two boundary conditions can be combined to yield a remarkably simple, accurate, and computationally fast method for extracting values for optical parameters from FDPM data. FDPM data were taken both at the surface and deep inside tissue phantoms, and the difference in data between the two geometries is striking. If one analyzes the surface data without accounting for the boundary, values deduced for the optical coefficients are in error by 50% or more. As expected, when aluminum foil was placed on the surface of a tissue phantom, phase and modulation data were closer to the results for an infinite-medium geometry. Raising the reflectivity of a tissue surface can, in principle, eliminate the effect of the boundary. However, we find that phase and modulation data are highly sensitive to the reflectivity in the range of 80-100%, and a minimum value of 98% is needed to mimic an infinite-medium geometry reliably. We conclude that noninvasive measurements of optically thick tissue require a rigorous treatment of the tissue boundary, and we suggest a unified partial-current--extrapolated boundary approach.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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