Diagnosing rheumatoid (RA) arthritis often involves subjective assessment of patient hands, X-rays, blood tests, and ultrasound imaging. Researchers at Birmingham University in the UK have now developed a system that they hope will offer a more objective way of diagnosing RA.
Their system uses infrared spectroscopy and 3D imaging to generate volumetric maps of blood within a patient’s hand. Conventional optical imaging is used to scan the hand and create a model of it. Subsequently, infrared light is illuminated through each of the fingers and what comes out is evaluated.
Blood that is more or less oxygenated absorbs infrared light differently, so it should be possible to detect hypoxia and inflammation.
In their study, the researchers analyzed 144 joints in 21 patients and their system’s results closely matched how these same joints were diagnosed by professional rheumatologists.
“We know that diagnosing patients with RA early is really important, because early treatment leads to better long-term outcomes,” said Professor Hamid Dehghani, the lead on the study, in a press release. “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 that it will enable clinicians to diagnose the disease earlier and offer personalized treatment plans for patients.”
Here’s Dr. Dehghani showing off the technology:
Open access study in Journal of Biomedical Optics: Detecting inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis using Fourier transform analysis of dorsal optical transmission images from a pilot study