Using Thermal Imaging to Track Cellulitis

Link to article at PubMed

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2023 Apr 26;10(5):ofad214. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofad214. eCollection 2023 May.


BACKGROUND: Cellulitis is a common soft tissue infection and a major cause of morbidity. The diagnosis is based almost exclusively on clinical history and physical exam. To improve the diagnosis of cellulitis, we used a thermal camera to track how skin temperature of the affected area changed during a hospital stay for patients with cellulitis.

METHODS: We recruited 120 patients admitted with a diagnosis of cellulitis. Daily thermal images of the affected limb were taken. Temperature intensity and area were analyzed from the images. Highest daily body temperature and antibiotics administered were also collected.We estimated a longitudinal linear mixed-effects model with a random intercept for the affected body area. All observations on a given day were included, and we used an integer time indicator indexed to the initial day (ie, t = 1 for the first day the patient was observed, etc.). We then analyzed the effect of this time trend on both severity (ie, normalized temperature) and scale (ie, area of skin with elevated temperature).

RESULTS: We analyzed thermal images from the 41 patients with a confirmed case of cellulitis who had at least 3 days of photos. For each day that the patient was observed, the severity decreased by 1.63 (95% CI, -13.45 to 10.32) units on average, and the scale decreased by 0.63 (95% CI, -1.08 to -0.17) points on average. Also, patients' body temperatures decreased by 0.28°F each day (95% CI, -0.40 to -0.17).

CONCLUSIONS: Thermal imaging could be used to help diagnose cellulitis and track clinical progress.

PMID:37180600 | PMC:PMC10173545 | DOI:10.1093/ofid/ofad214

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