Automated hand thermal image segmentation and feature extraction in the evaluation of rheumatoid arthritis

Proc Inst Mech Eng H. 2015 Apr;229(4):319-31. doi: 10.1177/0954411915580809.


The aim of the study was (1) to perform an automated segmentation of hot spot regions of the hand from thermograph using the k-means algorithm and (2) to test the potential of features extracted from the hand thermograph and its measured skin temperature indices in the evaluation of rheumatoid arthritis. Thermal image analysis based on skin temperature measurement, heat distribution index and thermographic index was analyzed in rheumatoid arthritis patients and controls. The k-means algorithm was used for image segmentation, and features were extracted from the segmented output image using the gray-level co-occurrence matrix method. In metacarpo-phalangeal, proximal inter-phalangeal and distal inter-phalangeal regions, the calculated percentage difference in the mean values of skin temperatures was found to be higher in rheumatoid arthritis patients (5.3%, 4.9% and 4.8% in MCP3, PIP3 and DIP3 joints, respectively) as compared to the normal group. k-Means algorithm applied in the thermal imaging provided better segmentation results in evaluating the disease. In the total population studied, the measured mean average skin temperature of the MCP3 joint was highly correlated with most of the extracted features of the hand. In the total population studied, the statistical feature extracted parameters correlated significantly with skin surface temperature measurements and measured temperature indices. Hence, the developed computer-aided diagnostic tool using MATLAB could be used as a reliable method in diagnosing and analyzing the arthritis in hand thermal images.

Keywords: Heat distribution index; k-means algorithm; rheumatoid arthritis; thermographic index.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Hand / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Thermography / methods*