Monday, May 28, 2007
Medical Reports: Assessing Arthritis
Red, swollen and painful joints. Those are the classic symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but things are heating up when it comes to diagnosing and treating the disease. As 7's Richard Lemus shows us, a thermal camera is helping doctors assess arthritis.
WSVN -- Doctor: "Any pain when I do this?"
Nikki Fair: "Uh, uh."
At just 10 years old, Nikki Fair is battling juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Joint pain has kept her from doing many of the things she loves.
Nikki Fair: "When I first got diagnosed with JRA, I had to stay out of gymnastics for a year, which I did not like at all."
But diagnosing and treating rheumatoid arthritis isn't always easy.
Until now, doctors had to rely on the way patients' joints look to assess how effective their treatment is.
Dr. Raphael Hirsch: "We assess a patient in a very subjective way. They come in, we look at their joints, we try to determine if they're abnormal."
Now doctors can map out patients' hot spots in less than 30 seconds.
The joints in arthritis patients are warmer than most people's.
A thermal camera measures the pattern of the skin's temperature. A second camera takes a three-dimensional snapshot of just part of the wrist to get a better look at the joint.
Even the smallest changes are easily pinpointed.
Dr. Raphael Hirsch: "There's definitely a feeling in the field that if you can catch some of these patients early, you can prevent some of the long-term damage to the joints."
Nikki is one of those patients. Thanks to physical therapy and medication, she has full use of her hands without pain.
Richard Lemus: Doctors say the cameras may eventually be useful for tracking other diseases like skin cancer and diabetes.
And, eventually, both cameras will be combined within one device, making it more convenient for regular use in a doctor's office.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Children's Physician Referral Line
(412) 692-PEDS Ext.7337