Thermal imaging may have the potential to become an adjunct assessment method of disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to the authors of a study published in Scientific Reports.
For the study, researchers investigated whether RA patients (n=31), without active hand synovitis, exhibited different baseline thermographic patterns of the fingers and palms compared to healthy individuals (n=51). Thermal images of the palms and dorsal aspect of each hand were recorded.
The authors found that both palm and finger temperature increased significantly in RA patients. For every 1°C increase in palm temperature, the odds that the participant had RA rather than being healthy increased by 61.4 per cent. For every 1°C increase in finger temperature, the odds that the patient has rheumatoid arthritis rather than being healthy increases by 40.2 per cent.
The authors suggest the temperature difference may be attributed to either underlying subclinical disease activity or that the original inflammatory process may cause irreversible thermography changes that persist after disease activity has resolved.