Use of a portable thermal imaging unit as a rapid, quantitative method of evaluating inflammation and experimental arthritis

J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 2008 May-Jun;57(3):169-75. doi: 10.1016/j.vascn.2008.01.003. Epub 2008 Feb 9.


Introduction: Thermal imaging has been utilized, both preclinically and clinically, as a tool for assessing inflammation and arthritis. However, previous studies have employed large, relatively immobile devises to obtain the thermal signature of the tissue of interest. The present study describes the characterization of a hand-held thermal imaging device in a preclinical model of general inflammation and a model of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: A hand-held ThermoView Ti30 portable thermal imager was utilized to detect the temporal changes in thermal signatures in rat model of carrageenan-induced paw edema (CFE) and a model of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). In both in vivo models, the kinetics of the thermal changes were correlated to footpad swelling. In addition, the CFE model was utilized to examine the ability of this technology to delineate pharmacodynamic changes in thermal signature in response to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin (10 mg/kg; p.o.).

Results: Thermal analysis of rat paws in the CFE model demonstrated a significant increase in the mean temperature difference between the inflamed and contralateral control paw by two hours post-carrageenan (8.3 +/-0.5 degrees F). Indomethacin significantly decreased the mean temperature difference in treated animals as compared to vehicle. In the rat CIA model, increases in footpad temperature, as determined by thermal imaging, were significantly elevated by Day 11 and remained elevated throughout the duration of the 28 day protocol. Thermal changes were also found to precede increases in footpad edema (swelling).

Discussion: The results of this study demonstrate that the hand-held thermal imaging technology represents a rapid, highly-reproducible method by which to quantitate the degree of inflammation in rat models of general inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. The ability to detect pharmacodynamic responses in paw temperature suggests that this technology may be a useful tool for the development of pharmacologic interventions for the treatment inflammation-related pathologies.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Arthritis, Experimental / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Carrageenan
  • Collagen
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Edema / chemically induced
  • Edema / diagnosis
  • Edema / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Hindlimb
  • Indomethacin / therapeutic use
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / diagnosis*
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thermography / methods*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Carrageenan
  • Collagen
  • Indomethacin