Spectroscopy/Optical Imaging: Fourier-Transform Analysis Helps Optical Method Improve RA Detection

It is now widely acknowledged that aggressive therapy within the first three months of symptom onset improves long-term outcomes for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease in which the patient’s own immune system attacks the lining of their joints. But diagnosis is hampered by limitations of the technologies currently used to detect such inflammation, and the pain, swelling, and damage that result inspire a third of people with RA to stop work within five years of their initial symptoms.

A new noninvasive method for detecting RA, based on diffuse optical imaging (DOI), promises to overcome these limitations by combining 3D digital imaging and infrared (IR) spectroscopy to map blood content in a patient’s hand.

Currently, diagnosis requires a combination of physical examinations by a rheumatologist, plus blood tests and x-ray or ultrasound imaging, both of which have specific drawbacks for detection of joint inflammation: Radiography’s low sensitivity to changes in soft tissue makes it ineffective for quantifying joint damage, and the requirement that ultrasound (as well as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI) imagery be interpreted by highly trained staff makes it time-consuming and expensive, and limits its availability.

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