Thermography (Sympathetic galvonic skin studies)
Editors-In-Chief: Robert G. Schwartz, M.D. , Piedmont Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, P.A., Jeff Cohen, M.D., Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine 
Thermography, thermal imaging, or thermal video, is a type of infrared imaging. Thermographic cameras detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum (roughly 900–14,000 nanometers or 0.9–14 µm) and produce images of that radiation. Since infrared radiation is emitted by all objects based on their temperatures, according to the black body radiation law, thermography makes it possible to "see" one's environment with or without visible illumination. The amount of radiation emitted by an object increases with temperature, therefore thermography allows one to see variations in temperature (hence the name). Thermographic images are direct measurements of sympathetic skin galvonic impedance. When viewed by thermographic camera, warm objects stand out well against cooler backgrounds; humans and other warm-blooded animals become easily visible against the environment, day or night. As a result, thermography's extensive use can historically be ascribed to the military and security services.
Thermal imaging photography finds many other uses. For example, firefighters use it to see through smoke, find persons, and localize the base of a fire. With thermal imaging, electric power line maintenance technicians locate overheating joints and parts, a telltale sign of their failure, to eliminate potential hazards. Where thermal insulation becomes faulty, building construction technicians can see heat leaks to improve the efficiencies of cooling or heating air-conditioning. Thermal imaging cameras are also installed in some luxury cars to aid the driver, the first being the 2000 Cadillac DeVille. Ever since the SARS outbreak of 2003 airports have also found utility in screening airport passangers for fever.
The largest medical application for infrared thermal imaging includes those musculoskelatal pain conditions that are weather sensitive (RSD, CRPS, Fibromyalgia, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, etc). In this instance sympathetic skin response is mapped through cold exposure over time. Sympathetic skin responses, skin galvonic impedance and thermal asymmetry patterns all overlap with each other] Internationally peer reviewed guidelinesfor neuromusculoskeletal thermography were adopted in 2006.
Breast thermal imaging has also been used to assess for cancer. Serial studies over time are used for comparative purposes in this application. Some physiological activities, particularly cold stress response in human beings and other warm-blooded animals can also be monitored with thermographic imaging
The appearance and operation of a modern thermographic camera is often similar to a camcorder. Enabling the user to see in the infrared spectrum is a function so useful that ability to record their output is often optional. A recording module is therefore not always built-in. Instead of CCD sensors, most thermal imaging cameras use CMOS Focal Plane Array (FPA). The most common types are InSb, InGaAs, QWIP FPA.
The newest technologies are using low cost and uncooled microbolometers FPA sensors. Their resolution is considerably lower than of optical cameras, mostly 160x120 or 320x240 pixels, up to 640x512 for the most expensive models. Thermographic cameras are much more expensive than their visible-spectrum counterparts, and higher-end models are often export-restricted. Older bolometers or more sensitive models as InSB require cryogenic cooling, usually by a miniature Stirling cycle refrigerator or liquid nitrogen.
Difference between IR film & Thermography
IR film is sensitive to temperatures between 250 °C and 500 °C while thermography is sensitive to approximately -50 °C to over 2,000 °C. So for a IR film to show something it must be over 250 °C or be reflecting infrared radiation from something that is at least that hot. Night vision goggles normally just amplify the small amount of light that is available outside like starlight or moon light and can't see heat or work in complete darkness.
Advantages of Thermography
- You get a visual picture so that you can compare temperatures over a large area
- With medical applications vasomotor mapping provides insight into generator identification
- It is real time capable of catching moving targets
- Able to find deteriorating components prior to failure
- Measurement in areas inaccessible or hazardous for other methods
Limitations & disadvantages of thermography
- Quality cameras are expensive and are easily damaged
- Interpretation of images requires training and experience
- Accurate temperature measurements in outside environments hard to make because of differing emissivities
- Condition monitoring
- Medical imaging
- Process control
- Non destructive testing
- Chemical imaging
Thermal infrared imagers convert the energy in the infrared wavelength into a visible light video display. All objects above 0 kelvins emit thermal infrared energy so thermal imagers can passively see all objects regardless of ambient light. However, most thermal imagers only see objects warmer than -50 °C.
The spectrum and amount of thermal radiation depend strongly on an object's surface temperature. This makes it possible for a thermal camera to display an object's temperature. However, other factors also influence the radiation, which limits the accuracy of this technique. For example, the radiation depends not only on the temperature of the object, but is also a function of the emissivity of the object. Also, radiation also originates from the surroundings and is reflected in the object, and the radiation from the object and the reflected radiation will also be influenced by the absorption of the atmosphere.
- ↑ Koor, I. The Collected Papers of Irvin Koor. The American Academy of Osteopathy; 1988,23-74
- ↑ Gulevich SJ, Conwell TD, Lane J, et al. Stress Infrared Telethermography is useful in the diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome, type 1 (formerly reflex sympathetic dystrophy). Clinical Journal of Pain 1997;13:50-59
- Practice Guidelines Committee, American Academy of Thermology, "Guidelines for Neuromusculoskeletal Thermography", Thermology International: 2006,5-9.
- Uematsu S, Edwin DH, Jankel WR, et al: Quantification Of Thermal Assymetry: I. Normal Values And Reproducibility. J Neurosurg 69: 552,1988.
- Lee M, Cohen, J. Editors. Rehabilitation Medicine and Thermography. New York University Medical Center. Impress publications; Wilsonville, OR 2008
- Schwartz, R. Resolving Complex Pain. Piedmont Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation; Greenville, SC 2006
- Cousins M, Bridenbaugh P, Editors. Neural Blockade In Clinical Anesthesia and Management Of Pain. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1998.
- Raj PP. Pain Medicine A Comprehensive Review. St. Louis, Mosby-Year Book Inc, 2003.
- Gonzalez, E. The Nonsurgical Management of Acute Low Back Pain. New York: Demos Vermande, 1997
- Palmer J, Uematsu S, Jankel W, Perry A. A Cellist With Arm Pain: Thermal Asymmetry In Scalene Anticus Syndrome, Achieves Of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 1991;72:237-42
- Good examples of FLIR thermographic images broken down by industry application
- IrInfo.org, online resource for infrared thermography
- Physical basics
- Medical Thermograpy
- various examples of thermographic images
- Uncooled Thermal Imaging
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