As a rheumatology practice, IFSMED, there are several instances when our conventional diagnostic tools only show part of the picture. Because many diseases in rheumatology deal with inflammation, being able to visually identify the areas of inflammation is an invaluable tool; however, often times inflammation lies underneath the surface and not visually noticeable.
In order to “look beyond the surface” we use infrared thermography. Infrared thermography is a non-invasive procedure that uses an infrared thermography camera to take pictures that display skin surface temperature and create a ‘surface map’ of body temperature zones.
Because thermographic images display skin surface temperature, and inflammation generally appears as “hot areas”, problem areas are easily identifiable.
Infrared thermography is a valuable tool to identify various problems such as:
- Abnormal blood supply
- Nerve damage
What happens during a thermography test procedure?
An infrared thermography scan is a totally non-invasive, painless procedure with no radiation and no contact with the body. All jewelry and clothes from the part of the body being scanned need to be removed.
The camera takes pictures and converts infrared radiation emitted from the skin surface into electrical impulses that are visualized in color on a computer monitor.
This visual image graphically maps the body temperature with a spectrum of colors indicating an increase or decrease in the amount of infrared radiation being emitted from the body surface. Because there is a high degree of thermal symmetry in the normal body, subtle, abnormal temperature changes can be easily identified.
How do we determine who needs infrared thermography?
- Patients with unclear diagnosis or those who do not respond to the therapy for a presumably known illness
- Patients with suspected “focal” problems, for example, those who have breast mass, or localized pain
- Patients with previously abnormal thermography in whom thermography is used as a follow-up tool to monitor the outcome of the therapy
Infrared Thermography Case Studies
The following are real case studies from our practice, Institute for Specialized Medicine, where thermography was used to aid in diagnosis. Thermography is never used as a sole means of diagnosis, but rather creates a more complete picture leading to an accurate diagnosis.
Case One: Thyroid Cancer
Key Indicator: 58 year old woman with neck pain. Infrared thermography demonstrated abnormal distribution of the surface area over the right thyroid lobe. Subsequent thyroid biopsy revealed malignant tumor of thyroid gland.
Case Two: Kidney Stones
Key indicator: The asymmetrical pattern (increased redness) on her left flank compared to her right flank.
Case Three: Chronic Bartonella
Key indicator: Bartonellosis is a chronic infection caused by Bartonella henselae. This microorganism persist in blood vessels and frequently causing proliferation/expansion of blood vessels under the skin. This process is invisible with the naked eye but can be easily detected with thermography (both color and gray scale)
Key indicator: A spider-like pattern is a common indicator of Bartonella. The left image is an example of a normal, clean exam. The right is a case presenting Bartonella.
Case Four: Yersinia
Key Indicator: Focal increase in surface temperature in the abdominal right lower quadrant. Yersiniosis is chronic infection caused by Yersinia enterocolitica or Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. Typically, the infectious agent persists in the lymph nodes surrounding ileocecal valve which results in a chronic inflammatory reaction in this region identifiable by thermography.
Case Five: Gluten Sensitivity
Key Indicator: Inflamed lower abdomen. Gluten consumption is causing small intestinal inflammation which can be identified by thermography in the form of increased periumbilical temperature.
Case Six: ASIA Syndrome/Ruptured Breast Implant
Key Indicator: Asymmetry between left and right breast.
Case Seven: Unexplained toe pain
Key Indicator: Inflamed left toe compared to right. Discovered toenail growing inside left big toe.
Case Eight: Unexplained Jaw Pain
Key Indicator: Woman complaining of jaw pain. Infrared thermography demonstrated abnormal surface temperature between her left and right side of her face. Image shows jaw necrosis on the left side.
Infrared thermography can be used in medicine as a screening tool to determine hidden problems. More importantly, recognition of specific thermographic patterns can accelerate the diagnosis of various illnesses.