Can a $16,000 thermal scanner used to find defects in computer circuit boards spot the early signs of hand arthritis? A study out of Duke University found supporting evidence. Finger joints in the first stage of osteoarthritis tend to be warmer, and the scanner is sensitive enough to pick up fluctuations as small as a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit.

The study involved 91 individuals with clinical hand arthritis in both hands. The research showed major temperature differences between healthy joints and joints affected by arthritis. The researchers said that the scanner was crucial in detecting those differences, according to the study reported recently in Rheumatology.