J2-8171 Combined multispectral and thermographic imaging for screening and monitoring of small joint arthritis

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Research project is (co) funded by the Slovenian Research Agency.

UL Member: Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Code: J2-8171
Project: Combined multispectral and thermographic imaging for screening and monitoring of small joint arthritis
Period: 1.5.2017 - 30.4.2020
Range per year: 1,59 FTE, category C
Head: Matija Milanič
Research activity: Engineering sciences and technologies
Research Organisations: link on SICRIS
Researchers: link on SICRIS
Citations for bibliographic records: link on SICRIS

Project description:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common chronic inflammatory arthritis. The prevalence in Europe is between 0.5 and 1% and the incidence rate increases with age, peaking at age of around 60 years. RA typically affects small and medium sized joints in a symmetric fashion and has a progressive, destructive course. Another inflammatory arthritis is psoriatic arthiritis (PsA), which is chronic erosive arthritis affecting joints, entheses and certain extra-articular sites. The prevalence of PsA is around 0.5%.

RA and PsA are both associated with significant pain and joint destruction and deformation, resulting in the progressive loss of function, mobility and the ability to care for oneself. High level of disability, including work disability, has a negative impact on social and psychological functioning of the patient.

The functional outcome and subsequently the indirect costs are strongly dependent on the time lag between the onset of the disease and the beginning of the treatment. Several studies have shown that a window of opportunity for alteration or even reversal of the disease exists in the first year and especially in the first 3 months. First few months therefore represent an important therapeutic window. Early diagnosis and early therapeutic intervention should be therefore a priority/goal. Tools for cost-effective and reliable diagnosis of early inflammatory signs in finger joints are therefore of highest importance to ensure a successful therapy and to reduce the loss of quality of life for the patient as well as the amount of disease related indirect costs.

Currently, x-ray, ultrasound (US) and magnetic resonance (MRI) are used as imaging modalities for diagnosis of arthritis. All these techniques have drawbacks therefore a novel imaging modality for diagnosis of arthritis addressing all these drawbacks is thus critically needed.

Several reports have indicated that optical techniques can be useful for imaging of inflamed joints. Specifically for an inflamed joint, the features, which can significantly alter the optical measurements, include vessel proliferation, relative hypoxia and change of synovial fluid.

We recently demonstrated that hyperspectral imaging (HSI) could serve as an imaging modality for the diagnostics and follow-up monitoring of arthritis in small joints. HSI is a non-contact and non-invasive optical technique which provides both spectral and spatial information in one measurement. However, HSI is relatively expensive and the data analysis is rather complex. Therefore a simplified multispectral imaging approach would be more appropriate. It was recently demonstrated that a combination of multispectral LED illumination and an RGB camera can fulfil these requirements.

Another imaging modality applicable to arthritis detection is thermography due to increased temperatures in the inflamed joints. Thermography provides temperature distribution maps of an object.

The overall objective of the proposed research is to develop and clinically evaluate a multimodal imaging modality combining multispectral and thermographic imaging for detection of early stage arthritis in small human joints.

It is expected that such imaging modality would significantly simplify and accelerate screening and therapy monitoring procedures for patients with joint inflammation, and also increase sensitivity and accuracy of the diagnostic imaging. Such system could be available in GP offices or as a home use monitoring device. Nevertheless, the proposed research could guide development of other diagnostic and monitoring procedures based on optical and thermographic compact imaging systems.

Work packages:

The specific aims of the study are:

  1. To design the system
  2. To build the system
  3. To evaluate the system
  4. The last part will include a clinical pilot study, where performance of the multimodal imaging system will be compared to the standard of care approaches.