Using Medical Thermography: for Prevention and Wellness
Jun 02, 2013 10:18PM
● By Linda Sechrist
What do thermography and the 450-foot-long iconic Hollywood landmark sign have in common? The answer—the sophisticated security system used to monitor activity around the famous sign includes a thermographic camera, which uses infrared energy to see trespassers in total darkness. This type of technology, which is also used by firefighters to see through smoke as well as to find people and fire hotspots, was originally developed for military use during the Korean War (1950 – 1953). Today, complex thermographic cameras are used in numerous fields such as medicine, where acupuncturists, chiropractors, Doctors of Oriental Medicine (DOM) and integrative physicians find it very effective for assessing the body.
Medical thermography is a noninvasive diagnostic technique that allows the examiner to quantify changes in skin surface temperature. It has largely been used in the U.S. as a preventive application for early detection of breast disease. Although this is the most common use of digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI), which converts infrared radiation emitted from the skin surface into electrical impulses that are visualized in color on a monitor, thermography’s uses and benefits in medicine are becoming far more widespread.
The visual image that graphically maps body temperature is called a thermogram, and its spectrum of colors indicates an increase or decrease in the amount of infrared radiation being emitted from the body’s surface. Because a normal body shows a high degree of thermal symmetry, subtle abnormal temperature asymmetries that relate to dysfunction can be easily identified. For example, full-body DITI is helpful in monitoring thermal abnormalities present in health conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other autoimmune diseases. It can also help to determine thyroid dysfunction, even when all thyroid levels are within normal levels in a patient’s blood work. A thermography scan is also helpful in detecting arthritis, inflammatory pain, artery conditions such as stroke potential, and vein conditions such as deep vein thrombosis.
“A pattern of hypothermia (cool areas) over T2 (the first and second thoracic vertebrae) in a thermogram indicates autoimmune dysfunction. This pattern, often seen in patients that suffer from symptoms such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease is helpful in confirming a suspected diagnosis and monitoring a patient’s response to treatment,” says Abby Appelt, a level II thermographer certified by the American College of Clinical Thermology and owner of Thermography of Indianapolis. According to Appelt, as the patient improves and the body returns to more normal thermal symmetry, the hypothermic pattern will be reduced. Conversely, if the patient is notresponding to treatment or is regressing, the temperature differentials will increase and the pattern will become more pronounced.
Owner Thermography of Indianapolis
Thermography fills a gap. X-rays, ultrasound and MRIs are all tests that provide information on the structures found within the body. DITI, on the other hand, is the only imaging technology at this time that is capable of showing physiological changes and metabolic processes. Since medical doctors analyze the images and report on their findings, this method is gaining in popularity as a tool for prevention and wellness as well as early detection, which allows an individual to take corrective measures and make lifestyle changes, such as diet or nutritional changes, and stress reduction.
Appelt points out that Western allopathic medicine doesn’t appreciate the full intelligence of the skin, the body’s largest organ and the body’s central communications hub. “The communication interconnections among all bodily systems come together at the skin, which has the information and the thermography device can tell us the whole story complete with metabolic processes and physiological changes. Because it’s without radiation risk, it can be used more frequently to follow a patient from their initial health challenge to their return to health,” notes Appelt.
Research shows thermography can “spot” temperature variations of potential problems earlier than other testing methods used today. It is safe because it avoids any X-ray radiation risk. It is a non-invasive procedure since no touch or compression is involved, and that makes it more private and more comfortable for clients. It is also the least expensive test method.
Thermal imaging screening tests are acknowledged by the FDA. It is not a stand-alone test and does not replace mammography, which is also recommended for breast screening tests. Thermography is a tool that can provide valuable, early, and possibly lifesaving information. For instance, Appelt recalls a patient who came in after her pre-surgical blood work for a joint replacement showed that she had cancer somewhere in the body. “After an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and a PET (positron emission tomography), doctors still could not determine the location of the cancer. Through thermography it was determined that there was significant inflammation inside the left carotid artery. She took those results to the oncologist for him to look deeper into that area,” says Appelt, who recommends that for prevention, individuals should have a thermogram of the upper body (from pubic bone to top of the head) done every two years.
“I have clients who come in every six months because they have had cancer and see this as a precaution to make sure that nothing new is happening in their body. Any one who notices changes in their body, such as their bowel habits, shortness of breath or changes in sleeping patterns, could have a thermogram, which will help to determine the health issues that need to be addressed by their physician,” advises Appelt.