Use of the technique of thermal imaging is growing fast in many fields of activity and particularly in that of medical imaging, for therapeutic and preventive applications. This technology has proved its worth and continues to prove its efficacy in the detection of diseases, infections and injuries in humans and in animals. In fact, this has to do principally with skin temperature. This reflects the blood flow and metabolism of the underlying tissue. Thus, an abnormal thermal image may be the sign of the presence of an area of inflammation or of impaired blood flow, which will then lead to more extensive investigations.
Its simplicity of use, its non-invasive nature and its capacity to transcribe results in real time make it a technique that is appreciated by practitioners and medical technicians.
Here we offer you an overview of the uses of thermal imaging in the medical and veterinary sector.
- The uses of thermal imaging in human medicine
Demonstration of an inflammatory lesion
Thermal imaging can be used on all types of inflammation that are located sufficiently close to the skin to be detected by a thermal sensor, such as in particular inflammatory arthritis or arthrosis. Infrared technology, through the fine detection of temperature variations, allows the site of inflammation to be detected more precisely and its progress to be monitored.
Detection of muscle lesions
Thermal imaging allows the detection of muscle lesions such as contractions, tears, or strains.
Monitoring of disorders of the peripheral circulation
Thermal imaging brings to light problems of blood flow as in Raynaud’s disease which corresponds to a reduction in blood flow to the extremities (mainly to the fingers) when exposed to cold or stress.
Detection of diabetes
Thermal imaging, through its performance in terms of the detection of circulatory and metabolic problems, operates naturally in the detection of diabetes mellitus and especially of the diabetic foot. The diabetic foot is characterised by ulceration or destruction of foot tissue, infected or not, caused by a loss of sensitivity in the feet resulting from nerve damage.
Thus, by means of infrared, screening for inflammation is performed in a simpler and more effective manner and enables the prevention of risks of ulceration, infection and amputation.
Identification of tumours
Cancer cells are characterised by a high growth rate and a high level of multiplication, which leads to an increase in blood flow and in cell metabolism, two processes that generate heat. This is why thermal imaging may be indicated in the detection of certain cancers.
- For example, thermal imaging is currently used as an additional diagnostic tool for breast cancer.
- Ongoing studies show that thermal imaging is promising for the detection of skin cancer, mainly because it is thought to be capable of detecting malignant melanomas.
- Finally, for certain cancers, the technique of intravenous injection of a fluorescent agent under infrared is currently under development. This agent has the characteristic of concentrating around tumour cells and therefore of allowing not only their detection but also their precise demarcation.
- The uses of thermal imaging in veterinary medicine
Racehorses are athletes whose organisms are subject to high demands. Thus, they may be subject to injuries or muscular weakness that have major consequences for their careers and their health. Thermal imaging, through its simplicity, its speed of use and its non-invasive nature, makes it an ideal diagnostic technique for horses.
- Early detection, up to several weeks before the appearance of clinical or radiographic signs, of musculoskeletal lesions, such as tendinitis, which is the most common.
- Identification of back pain: thermal imaging provides a safe, rapid and objective image of back inflammation in equines and constitutes a useful tool for the correct fit of the saddle. Detecting and treating back problems in horses, in addition to providing relief, can avoid the generation of problems of limping and under-performance.
- Checking hooves to detect potential abnormalities capable of generating injuries: presence of abscesses, poor blood flow caused by shoes....
Thermal imaging is thought to enable the early detection of diseases such as foot and mouth disease or BRD (Bovine Respiratory Disease) through the observation of hyperthermia.
- Use of thermal imaging in the detection or suspicion of dysplasia, of cranial cruciate ligament rupture, or of a herniated disc.
- Detection of hyperthyroidism in cats through thermal imaging.
Numerous studies are in progress to continue to develop the medical applications of thermal imaging, particularly with regard to prevention and diagnosis. In human medicine, progress is observed every day, towards the detection of an increasing number of cancers but also in the securing of numerous surgical operations.
In veterinary medicine, progress is being made particularly with population medicine applications, that is, in the management of groups of individuals to avert health problems.
Thermal imaging is becoming essential, not only in the technical and technological sectors but also in societal and environmental fields. Furthermore, we invite you to learn more about thermal imaging by downloading the LYNRED / Reuniwatt case free of charge.