Objectives: Our study aimed to investigate the role of infrared thermal imaging in differential diagnosis of Lumbar Disc Herniation (LDH). 180 patients with lumbocrural pain and clinically suspected of having LDH were selected from January 2015 to March 2016 during their hospitalization in Xiangyang No. 1 People’s Hospital, Hubei University of Medicine.
Methods: 62 of those cases were diagnosed by X-ray Computed Tomography (CT), 70 by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and 48 by both. The signal value of infrared thermal images was estimated by comparing the images of patients with LDH with that of control patients.
Results: In this study, LDH were found in 120 cases by infrared thermal imaging. The infrared thermal images of lumbosacral area of all those 120 cases showed a diamond-shaped asymmetric high temperature zone with deepened color compared with surrounding area. Among the 120 cases, 30 cases showed unchanged temperature of affected leg compared with control group; 48 cases showed decreased temperature of the affected limb; 17 cases showed increased body temperature of the affected limb; 25 cases showed both decreased and increased temperatures found in different areas of the affected limb.
Discussion: Analyses of the combined data of infrared thermal images, clinical histories and physical examinations resulted in 60 cases to be more accurately diagnosed with different conditions which share the same symptom with LDH (28 cases of myofascial syndrome, 11 cases of coxitis, 16 cases of joint osteoarthritis, 3 cases of femoral head necrosis, and 2 cases of varicose veins).
Conclusion: Compared with the conventional imaging examination, such as CT and MRI, infrared thermal imaging showed a higher diagnostic value for LDH.
Keywords: Lumbar disc herniation, infrared thermal imaging, lumbocrural pain, diagnosis, MRI, osteoarthritis.
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