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New technique uses infrared to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis

Tuesday July 9th, 2019

Infrared light could be used to help detect and diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, thanks to a method developed by UK scientists.

A team at the University of Birmingham School of Computer Science, working with Health Technologies Institute and Rheumatologists in the NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre, has combined 3D digital imaging with infrared spectroscopy to create a 3D image of blood content inside a patient’s hand. This can be used to produce an objective, quantifiable assessment, the researchers say.

In a pilot study, the team examined 144 joints from 21 rheumatology patients, detecting accurately inflamed joints, with results closely matching diagnoses made using ultrasound and clinical examination. The results are published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics.

When a hand is placed inside the scanner it creates a 3D model of the hand, measuring its size and contours.

Then, an infrared beam is directed through each finger in turn and the amount of light coming out through the finger is measured. Because oxygenated and deoxygenated blood absorb light differently, it is possible to use the infrared imaging to calculate warning signs of RA such as hypoxia and increased levels of blood content.

Lead study author Professor Hamid Dehghani said: “We know that diagnosing patients with RA early is really important, because early treatment leads to better long-term outcomes.

“The system we have developed offers a low-cost, objective way of detecting the disease and potentially grading how advanced it is. We hope, in time it will enable clinicians to diagnose the disease earlier and offer personalised treatment plans for patients.”

The team is now looking to reduce the size of the scanner and further improve its accuracy.

Lighter et al. Detecting inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis using Fourier transform analysis of dorsal optical transmission images from a pilot study. Journal of Biomedical Optics 9 July 2019

Tags: Rheumatology | UK News

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