THE ROLE OF INFRARED THERMAL IMAGING
IN MANAGEMENT OF NEUROPATHIC PAIN
M.D. , Masood Hashmi, M.D. , and Eric M. Phillips
Associates Pain Management Center
1255 37th Street,
Vero Beach, Florida,
The value of Infrared thermal imaging (ITI) is limited
to evaluation of neurovascular dysfunction. It provides useful diagnostic and
therapeutic information in the management of neuropathic pain.
Key Words: Infrared thermal imaging, neuropathic
pain, ITI in pain management.
The nociceptive chronic pain is usually
due to involvement of large somesthetic (somatic) nerve fibres. Electromyography
(EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests are usually the diagnostic tools
for the study of somesthetic pain. In contrast, these tests are normal in
neuropathic pain because they can not detect changes in the microscopic
thermosensory neurovasculature. The diagnosis and management of neuropathic pain
requires neurovascular autonomic tests such as infrared thermal imaging.
The role of ITI in pain
management was studied in 762 successive complex pain patients evaluated with
ITI. The results were compared with a meta analysis of medical
literature. A Bales Scientific Infrared Thermal Processor and an Agema (Flir)
Infrared Thermal Processor were utilized in this study. The patients were cooled
down in a 20-21ºC
steady state room for 30 minutes of equilibration without clothing. No prior
smoking for 90 minutes. A standard sensitivity of 24-34ºC
was done. If the areas were not properly visualized the physician would adjust
the sensitivity accordingly. Two identically reproducible images recorded on
laser disc were required.
The study revealed the
importance of proper technique and proper clinical correlation. ITI is useful in
the study of complex neuropathic pain. It provides indispensable diagnostic and
therapeutic information. Both superficial and deep temperature changes influence
the ITI test. The skin is an almost perfect radiator of both deep and surface
heat. This radiator, has 98% emissive efficiency . The ITI records
pathological temperatures at least as deep as 27 mm (Fig 1) in the extremities,
and even deeper in the breast [3-5].
provides diagnostic information in neuropathic pain. Such information cannot be
achieved by EMG or NCV. ITI is useless in diagnosis and management of cervical
and lumbar sprain. It can spare patients from unnecessary amputation, carpal
tunnel, temporomandibular joint, spinal disc surgeries and migraine. It is
helpful in differentiating cervicogenic headache from migraine-each requiring
opposite forms of treatment. In electrical injury ITI identifies points of
entrance and exit of electricity. This picture is pathognomonic and is
exclusively seen in electrical injury. ITI identifies hyperthermic foci of
permanent sympathetic system damage sparing the patient from further damage by
trauma of sympathetic nerve blocks.
Figure1- A previously
undiagnosed right leg arteriovenous malformation over 27mm deep, complicated by
Complex regional pain syndrome. ITI identified the deep lesion and spared the
patient from the scheduled sympathectomy. Vascular surgery corrected the
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