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Thermal Scanner Spots Early Arthritis in Hands

First used to find defects in computer circuit boards, it detects inflammation

MONDAY, July 19, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A thermal scanner used to find defects in computer circuit boards can also detect the early signs of hand arthritis, researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found.

Finger joints in the first stage of osteoarthritis tend to be warmer, and the scanner is sensitive enough to pick up fluctuations as minute as a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit.

The $16,000 scanner could be much more useful than X-rays, which produce inconclusive findings at earlier stages of arthritis.

The Duke study involved 91 people with clinical hand arthritis in both hands. Researchers found significant temperature differences between healthy joints and joints affected by arthritis. The scanner was key in picking up those differences.

"As we learn more about the early stages of the disease, I think we'll be able to intervene earlier, when there will be more chance of making a difference," said Dr. Virginia Kraus, a rheumatologist with Duke.

The study appears in the July issue of Rheumatology.

More information

The National Institutes of Health have more about arthritis.

SOURCES: Duke University Medical Center, news release, July 12, 2004
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