Infrared Thermal Imaging as a Novel Non-Invasive Point-of-Care Tool to Assess Filarial Lymphoedema.
Lymphatic filariasis causes disfiguring and disabling lymphoedema, which is commonly and frequently exacerbated by acute dermatolymphangioadenitis (ADLA). Affected people require long-term care and monitoring but health workers lack objective assessment tools. We examine the use of an infrared thermal imaging camera as a novel non-invasive point-of-care tool for filarial lower-limb lymphoedema in 153 affected adults from a highly endemic area of Bangladesh. Temperature differences by lymphoedema stage (mild, moderate, severe) and ADLA history were visualised and quantified using descriptive statistics and regression models. Temperatures were found to increase by severity and captured subclinical differences between no lymphoedema and mild lymphoedema, and differences between moderate and severe stages. Toes and ankle temperatures detected significant differences between all stages other than between mild and moderate stages. Significantly higher temperatures, best captured by heel and calf measures, were found in participants with a history of ADLA, compared to participants who never had ADLA, regardless of the lymphoedema stage. This novel tool has great potential to be used by health workers to detect subclinical cases, predict progression of disease and ADLA status, and monitor pathological tissue changes and stage severity following enhanced care packages or other interventions in people affected by lymphoedema.