Infrared scanning could improve rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis

rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, infra-red diagnosis, infra-red lightA new way of detecting rheumatoid arthritis using infrared light could offer a better way of diagnosing the disease and monitoring how well treatment is working, a University of Birmingham study shows.

The rapid, non-invasive technique could help clinicians diagnose rheumatoid arthritis earlier, and assess how effectively the selected treatment is controlling the progression of the disease.

Current diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis relies on a combination of physical examinations by a consultant rheumatologist, blood tests, and scanning by X-ray or ultrasound. Analysing these can be time-consuming and requires highly-trained staff.

The new technique involves the patient placing a hand inside a scanner, which creates a 3D model of the hand, measuring its size and contours. An infrared beam is then 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’s possible to use the infrared imaging to calculate warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis.

“We know that diagnosing patients with rheumatoid arthritis early is really important, because early treatment leads to better long-term outcomes,” explains Prof Hamid Dehghani, who led the study. “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.”

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