Since rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the patient’s immune system attacks the lining of their joints, it is generally accepted that aggressive therapy administered within the first three months of the onset of symptoms enhances long-term outcomes for those with RA. Due to the pain, swelling, and damage caused by this inflammation, a third of RA patients stop working within five years of first exhibiting symptoms. However, diagnosis is hampered by limitations in the technologies presently used to detect this inflammation. By combining 3D digital imaging and infrared (IR) spectroscopy to map the blood content in a patient’s hand, a novel noninvasive technique for RA detection based on diffuse optical imaging (DOI) promises to get around these restrictions.
Currently, a rheumatologist’s physical examinations, blood tests, and x-ray or ultrasound imaging—both of which have particular limitations for detecting joint inflammation—are required for diagnosis:
Since ultrasound (as well as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI) imagery must be interpreted by highly skilled personnel. It is time-consuming and expensive. Its availability is limited due to radiography’s low sensitivity to changes in soft tissue.
The study of the outcomes is also arbitrary. However, the diffuse optical imaging-based approach provides objective, quantitative analysis and is quick, inexpensive, and extremely sensitive.
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