Thermal response and injury: recording based on the type of tissue measured with thermography.
One of the most scientifically proven applications is the use of thermography to support the diagnosis, depending on thermal response.
Diagnosis support is an application that allows, in a quick and non-invasive way, to perform a screening of the main pathologies that occur in the locomotor system, depending on the thermal response.
Thanks to the research by Sillero et al. (2015) and Fernández-Cuevas et al. (2020), it has been possible to categorize the different body tissues based on whether their response is hypothermic, that is, if immediately after the injury a drop in temperature, or conversely, if the response is hyperthermic, that is, after the injury the affected region increases the temperature significantly.
Although from ThermoHuman we defend the position that thermography is not a diagnostic tool by itself, it can be a great ally in supporting diagnosis and triage to facilitate the understanding of acute physiological processes of tissue injury, thanks to the methodology of asymmetries from the first image.
Hypothermic thermal response to injury
The tissues most related to the neuromuscular system, which the central nervous system governs, have shown that when injured they have hypothermic behavior.
Whether it is the peripheral nerve or a more proximal branch, if this tissue is affected, the response of that peripheral region or all the regions that are innervated by the most proximal branch will be affected by reducing the temperature.
We have documented cases of brain strokes or herniated discs that affect all regions distal from the pathological process.
On the other hand, when the muscle is injured, a hypothermic island is produced in that muscle that will tend to equilibrate when functional recovery has been achieved and it is ready to return to its usual practice. These investigations have been previously described in this blog.
Hyperthermic thermal responses to injury
While if we evaluate a lesion that is more related to the arthrokinematics system that is also less vascularized, the answer is clear hyperthermia. This may be due to local inflammation factors, the lesion’s severity, or vascularity.
Tissues such as the meniscus, ligament, fascia, or bone increase the temperature when injured and most of them, except for the fascia, leave a thermal scar in the recovery process that can last forever, as is the case of the anterior cruciate ligament.
These tissues will heat up due to the increased blood supply to the region to repair it and due to the poor ability to return blood (as occurs in the case of varicose veins, where the blood is more “stagnant”). In addition, since it is a vital tissue for human survival, the signaling will depend on the severity.
For a correct recovery, improving these parameters will help the temperature to recover its balance.
The use of thermography in the medical field has been controversial, partly due to the little standardized use and poor development of thermal imaging cameras in the past. But currently, as Lahiri et al. (2012) collect in a review, it is used in medicine for many applications.
In the application to sports medicine, we highlight its use in supporting diagnosis, to improve and help the clinical reasoning of specialists very quickly.
Sillero-Quintana, M., Fernández-Jaén, T., Fernández-Cuevas, I., Gómez-Carmona, P. M., Arnaiz-Lastras, J., Pérez, M. D., & Guillén, P. (2015). Infrared thermography as a support tool for screening and early diagnosis in emergencies. Journal of Medical Imaging and Health Informatics, 5(6), 1223-1228.
Fernández-Cuevas, I. and Del Estal-Martínez, A. Thermal profile description of most common soccer injuries by Infrared Thermography: case studies. 2020. Conference: I International Congress on Application of Infrared Thermography in Sport Science At:Valencia, Spain
Lahiri, B. B., Bagavathiappan, S., Jayakumar, T., & Philip, J. (2012). Medical applications of infrared thermography: a review. Infrared Physics & Technology, 55(4), 221-235.