Researchers at Duke University Medical Center are studyingwhether a device developed to scan computer circuitboards for defects can detect early signs of osteoarthritis (OA)in the hands. They found that the scanner, which can detecttemperature differences to a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, iseffective in determining the temperature of finger joints.Warmer joints are associated with inflammation and may signalthe first stage of OA.
Arthritis in the hand often is diagnosed through x-rays. Thex-ray images show narrowing of joint space and cysts, bothcharacteristics of OA. Researchers say that the scanner ismore accurate than x-rays, which often produce inconclusivefindings. They found that, as OA symptoms increased in severity,the joints tended to cool down. Their analysis showed thatprogressively cooler temperatures in the joints correlated withincreasing disease severity revealed in x-rays of the samejoints. They say that the thermal scanner holds promise fordetecting OA in the first stages of the disease, before jointchanges appear on x-rays, and before symptoms such as painand joint enlargement occur.