Physicians who suspect patients mayhave arthritis of the hand often make thediagnosis using x-rays. Researchers fromDuke University Medical Center may havefound another diagnostic tool for arthritis.The researchers are studying whether adevice developed to scan circuit boards fordefects can identify early indicators of handosteoarthritis (OA). The thermal scanner issensitive enough to detect differences of .10̊F. The researchers found that the scannerworks in determining the temperatureof the finger joints. Warmer finger joints area sign of inflammation and may indicate thefirst signs of OA.
The researchers said the scanner ismore accurate than x-rays, which often producedinconclusive findings. The analysisdiscovered that as OA symptoms increasedin severity, the joints tended to cool. Theresearchers'data indicated that progressivelycooler joint temperatures were relatedwith increasing disease severity shownin x-rays of the same joints. The investigatorsare confident that the thermal scannercan detect OA in the first stage of the disease,before joint changes become noticeableon x-rays and before symptoms occur.