What is Thermography?
Medical Thermography is a monitor of thermal abnormalities present in a number of diseases and physical injuries. It is used as an aid for diagnosis and prognosis, as well as therapy follow up and rehabilitation monitoring, within clinical fields that include rheumatology, neurology, physiotherapy, sports medicine, oncology, pediatrics, orthopedics and many others.
Is it Safe?
Thermography has been used extensively in human medicine in the U.S.A., Europe and Asia for the past 20 years with no side-effects or negative reports from use. Prominent physicians such as Christian Northrup, MD say it’s safe even for pregnant women and babies in her article recommending thermography as “the best breast test”. Sports medicine docs use thermal imaging to monitor inflammation so an athlete is returned to peak performance without setbacks of returning too early.
How it Works
Medical DITI or “thermography” is a non-invasive adjunctive diagnostic technique, registered with the FDA in 1982, that allows the examiner to visualize and quantify changes in skin surface temperature. An infrared scanning camera is used to convert infrared radiation emitted from the skin’s surface into electrical impulses that are visualized in color on a monitor, similar to night-vision goggles. This visual image graphically maps the body temperature and is referred to as a thermogram.
Thermography is just a simple test of physiology that relies on the sympathetic nervous system’s control of skin blood flow as the body responds and reacts to pathology anywhere in the body by increasing or decreasing blood flow to corresponding affected areas. This change affects the skin’s surface temperature which is detectable by thermography.
The spectrum of colors indicate an increase or decrease in the amount of infrared radiation being emitted from the body’s surface. Since there is a high degree of thermal symmetry in the normal body, subtle abnormal temperature asymmetries can be easily identified.
In preventative breast health, baseline scans of healthy tissue permit comparison to future scans making changes easily detectable while cells may be pre-cancerous.
Thermal imaging has come a long way in the last twenty years, with a high level of refinement since the early 1990’s. The advances in sensitivity and reliability are due to the huge technological advances in computing, solid state miniaturization and declassification of military electronic super cooling and infrared technology. Imaging Alternative’s camera is accurate to 1/100th of a degree, measured by pixel, 80,000 per image, so extremely high sensitivity.
The need for detecting carriers of the SARS virus put medical thermography on a fast track for development so that airports could reduce spreading SARS by preventing infected passenger travel. Facial scans detecting the slightest elevated temperatures with thermography permitted treatment of infections before passengers were allowed to board planes. Today, ebola is causing increasing airport video scanning thermography to test and possibly quarantine those with elevated facial temps indicating fever.
Medical thermography’s major clinical value is in its high sensitivity to pathology in the vascular, muscular, neural and skeletal systems by detecting temperature changes transmitted to the skin’s surface.
Clinical uses for thermography include:
- Defining the extent of a lesion of which a diagnosis has previously been made
- Detection of an abnormal area not previously identified, so further diagnostic tests can be performed
- Detecting early lesions before they are clinically evident
- Monitoring inflammation of the healing process before the patient is returned to work or training.
How it Works in Detail
Skin blood flow is under the control of the sympathetic nervous system. In normal people there is a symmetrical dermal pattern which is consistent and reproducible for any individual. This is recorded in precise detail by thermography, with a temperature sensitivity of 1/100th of a degree.
The neuro-thermographic application of thermal imaging measures the somatic component of the sympathetic nervous system by assessing dermal blood flow. The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated at the same anatomical location as its sensory counterpart and produces a ‘somato sympathetic response’. The somato sympathetic response appears on a thermogram as a localized area of altered temperature with specific features for each anatomical lesion or cell group abnormality.
The mean temperature differential in peripheral nerve injury is only 1.5°C, yet detectable with thermography. In sympathetic dysfunctions, like RSD / SMP / CRPS (reflex sympathetic dystrophy, sympathetically maintained pain, and complex regional pain syndrome), temperature differentials range from 1° C to 10° C depending on severity. Rheumatological processes generally appear as ‘hot areas’ with increased temperature patterns. The pathology is generally an inflammatory process, i.e. synovitis of joints and tendon sheaths, epicondylitis, capsular and muscle injuries.
Vascular conditions are readily demonstrated by thermal imaging including Raynauds, Vasculitis, Limb Ischemia, and DVT.
Thermography – Filling the Gap in Clinical Diagnosis
Ultrasound, X-ray, CT scans and MRI are tests of anatomy or structure. EKG, ECG and EMG are tests of motor physiology.
Medical thermography is unique in its capability to show physiological change and pathology in the vascular, muscular, neural and skeletal systems. It offers considerable health and financial savings by providing evidence to justify or skip more expensive investigations, some with dangerous radiation. Results obtained with thermography are totally objective and show excellent correlation with other diagnostic tests.
Safe, highly sensitive detection and monitoring of physiology and function – thermography! a.k.a. digital infrared thermal imaging.