According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 24 percent of adults in the United States have some form of arthritis. Early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis can reduce the risk of joint damage, functional impairment and pain.
Diagnosing arthritis begins with a physical examination to look for signs of inflammation: swollen joints, joint stiffness, joint pain and tenderness, and a decrease in range of motion. However, since not all signs of arthritis are visible to the naked eye, making accurate diagnosis during telemedicine visits is a challenge.
Rheumatologists at the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine plan to bridge this information gap by incorporating imaging using thermography cameras into telemedicine visits. These cameras use infrared radiation to provide detailed images of inflamed areas.
Through a grant from Pfizer, the UAB research team will first optimize protocols for infrared thermography using musculoskeletal ultrasound as the standard. The team will then train nursing staff at Whitfield Regional Hospital in Demopolis and John Paul Jones Hospital in Camden, both members of the UAB Health System, on how to use the cameras to obtain images of a patient’s hands and feet.
Images will be sent to UAB rheumatology clinicians. The team will test whether the infrared thermography imaging can be effectively implemented to enable remote examination for joint inflammation.