Doctors turn to thermal imaging to assess burn wounds
A clinical research programme at the VU University Medical Centre of Amsterdam in The Netherlands is using thermal imaging as a diagnostic tool to assess burn wounds. Thermal imaging is non-contact and it allows real-time monitoring of the healing progress of burnt skin over the duration of the treatment.
VUmc is collaborating with the Dutch Burn Centre in Beverwijk for the project. Dr Rudolf Verdaasdonk, a professor at VU and head of the department of physics and medical technology at the VU Medical Centre, stated: ‘Thermal cameras have become small and practical with ever higher image and temperature resolutions.’
The researchers are using a Xenics thermal camera, the Gobi-640, for the study. The observations made by the camera are mainly based on perfusion, meaning the blood streaming from the core body through the peripheral vessels towards damaged skin tissue, and showing the presence of an intact or damaged microvasculature, depending on the temperature measured.
Image resolution, Dr Verdaasdonk explained, is the foremost consideration when using thermal cameras in this clinical context. Spatial resolution should reach 1mm on the skin area examined, while temperature resolution is also key to discriminate between differences in blood temperature specific to superficial or deep dermal burn wounds. The Gobi-640 has spatial resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and has a measurement threshold of 0.05°C.
A specific advantage of thermography in the clinical study carried out at the Dutch Burn Centre is that it enables the continued observation and real-time evaluations of burn wounds to notice improvements in the healing process.
In sum, Dr Verdaasdonk said, thermography could provide much better diagnostic options in the early stages of burn wounds, and it could enable a much better evaluation of the healing progress. ‘I foresee that in the future every medical practitioner will have some smartphone device with a thermal camera in their pocket. This could even extend to popular health apps used at home.’