Thermography or thermology is the medical science that derives diagnostic indications from highly detailed and sensitive infrared images of the human body. Thermology is sometimes referred to as medical infrared imaging or tele-thermology and utilizes highly resolute and sensitive thermographic cameras.
Medical thermography is used to determine areas of the body that have irregular blood flow. It is commonly used by sport doctors and veterinarians to determine areas of the body that have inflammation. Thermography is also used by allergy clinics.
In alternative medicine
Thermography has been promoted by some alternative medicine practitioners as a means to diagnose cancer, although it is not effective for this purpose. Health Canada has issued "cease and desist" orders to clinics offering breast thermography as a cancer diagnostic device because thermography cameras are not licensed as a medical device in Canada, and because thermography is viewed as ineffective by medical experts. The FDA has issued a public warning notice stating that breast thermography is not an alternative to mammography and has ordered Joseph Mercola to stop making excessive claims for thermography.
Although thermography is discouraged in North America by the American Cancer Society, radiologists and the FDA for early breast cancer detection, it is widely adopted in clinics in Europe. According to FLIR, the largest manufacturers of thermal cameras, there are several studies listed in Pub Med that suggest thermography can be used in addition to conventional radiotherapy. The FDA licensed the FLIR thermography cameras on March 9, 2004 “for use as an adjunct to other clinical diagnostic procedures in the diagnosis, quantifying, and screening of differences in skin surface temperature changes” (K033967). The cleared indication for use statement also states that the FLIR Telethermographic camera Series A, E, P and S can “visualize and document temperature patterns and changes.”
It is important for individuals to understand what the FDA has granted or cleared a particular medical infrared camera for. The FDA assigns 510(k) numbers to these devices known as 510(k) indications for use. Each IR camera manufacturer has its own assigned 510(k)number. FDA regulation number 884.2980 is not a 510(k) indication for use but instead a general classification for the entire telethermagraphic industry known as Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Volume 8. 510(k) number K032471 seems to be the most complete from the FDA site.
- Clinics ordered to stop 'useless' breast cancer tests, CBC News, Nov 27 2012
- FDA Safety Communication: Breast Cancer Screening - Thermography is Not an Alternative to Mammography, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration June 2, 2011
- Tsouderos, Trine (25 April 2012). "FDA warns doctor: Stop touting camera as disease screening tool". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "The accuracy of digital infrared imaging for breast cancer detection in women undergoing breast biopsy.". European Journal of Surgical Oncology. June 2010.
- "Flir System AB". FDA.