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Smartphone Based Thermal Imaging: A Valid New Modality For Tissue Temperature Measurement?
Kyros Ipaktchi, MD1; Kellie Currie, MD2; Grady Maddox, MD2
1Denver Health Medical Center, Denver, CO; 2University of Colorado, Aurora, CO

Introduction: Recently handheld smartphone based thermal imaging technology was introduced. The technique allows aside from temperature measurements obtaining real time digital photographic thermal images. This technology appears useful for perioperative monitoring of microsurgical cases. Its clinical validity to date has not been studied. The presented study compares smartphone based thermal image (TI) temperature measurements against standard infrared temperature scanners (TS).

Methods: A standard infrared thermal scanner was compared to a smartphone based thermal imaging camera. 2 groups of measurements were designed: Warm fluid inside a thermos container served as control measurement (group 1); a point at the palmar intersection of Kaplan's cardinal line and the radial border of the ring finger was used as clinical measurement (group 2). Measurement distance was set at close to skin contact (1mm) in the TS group per manufacturer recommendation and at 10 cm distance for the TI group. 12 measurements each were obtained from groups 1 and 2 using TS and TI resulting in 2 groups of paired measurements; temperature was measured in Celsius. Data was analyzed using a paired student T test with significance set as p < 0.05.

Results: Paired measurement of the control group using both TS and TI showed comparable mean temperature readings and variation: TS: 41.3, TI 42.5; Variance TS 0.11, TI 0.26; p was less than 0.05. Paired measurements of a standardized palmar region in group 2 using TS and TI demonstrated comparable mean temperature measurements and variation: TS: 33.4, TI 33.3; Variance TS 0.01, TI 0.03; p was less than 0.05. In addition to pure temperature measurements, thermal imaging allowed documentation of whole hand temperature distribution.

Conclusion: Smartphone based thermal imaging devices offer reliable temperature measurements compared to conventional infrared thermal scanners. Thermal images of injured hands offer additional information and documentation in the acute trauma setting. Documentation of thermal images can be a valuable resource assessing microvascular patients in the prehospital as well as the postoperative recovery environment.

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