Infrared Thermography (IRT)

Infrared Thermography (IRT)

Introduction to Infrared Thermography

  • Infrared thermography (IRT) is a technique that utilises infrared imaging to detect heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues.
  • The basic principle behind IRT is that objects with a temperature above absolute zero emit infrared radiation in proportion to their temperature.
  • An infrared camera captures this radiation and translates it into an image which depicts temperature variations, producing a thermogram.

Working of Infrared Thermography

  • An infrared camera captures the infrared energy emitted, reflected and transmitted by all objects, with warmer areas appearing darker on the display and cooler areas lighter.
  • The captured data is then processed and analysed using software algorithms to generate a thermogram which can be observed on a monitor.
  • It is a non-invasive and non-radiating method for visualising temperature patterns, therefore poses no risk to the patient.

Applications of Infrared Thermography in Medical Science

  • In medical diagnostics, IRT can be used for early detection of diseases related to abnormal heat patterns like cancers, respiratory diseases and circulatory disorders.
  • IRT can be used in sports medicine to assess the recovery of sports injuries and to prevent overuse injuries through heat pattern analysis.
  • In neurology, IRT is useful in diagnosing and monitoring diseases like complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and neuropathic pain which often associate with temperature variations in the skin.
  • Breast cancer screening frequently employs IRT as it is able to detect changes in skin surface temperature indicative of cancer growth.

Benefits and Limitations of Medical Infrared Thermography

  • Advantages: IRT is non-invasive, contactless, allows for real-time imaging and poses no risk of radiation exposure making it a safe diagnostic tool.
  • Limitations: It provides surface temperature measurements but provides no internal information about the body. Its accuracy can be influenced by ambient temperature and perfusion of the skin, and interpretation of the images requires considerable expertise.

Infrared thermography and its applications in medical diagnostics is a critical area to understand in the field of Medical Physics.