What are the most important specifications when choosing a thermography camera?

Most important are:

    1. The array size (example:  320 X 240) This indicates the number of pixels in the image.  Today the medical standard is at least 320 X 240 or 76,800 pixels
    2. The thermal sensitivity.  The best cameras today are < 50mK or <60mK which means the detector is sensitive to .05 or .06 degrees Celcius  at 30°C.  Older cameras may be as low as <100mK
    3. Radiometry is highly important.  This means that the camera calibration is stored on the camera head.  Non-radiometric cameras (there are many in the medical market) store the calibration on the computer software.  These thermography cameras are technically called “imagers” and the displayed temperatures are not true.
    4. Another feature that is important for image quality is the “Non-Uniformity Correction” known as NUC.  It is important that the NUC function be an automatic function of the camera.

I have heard that a 160 X 120 array can “extrapolate” to a 320 X 240 array. Are they the same?

Extrapolation is a programming feature and has nothing to do with the array size.  There is a considerable price difference in the array sizes, so true array is very important.

I have heard that only one company has a true medical camera.  Is that true?

The primary part of all thermography cameras, regardless of application, is a highly specialized thermal detector.  It has been said that some medical cameras are “industrial”.  The primary difference between a camera that is “industrial” and one that is “medical” is FDA registration and medical specific application software.  

A thermography device for a highly specialized industrial application is either very expensive and would not be offered for medical use, or they are inexpensive infrared cameras that do not read temperature.  If the FDA registers it as a medical device, it is a medical device.

How many medical thermography cameras are currently in use in the U.S.?

The best estimate is that there are between 400-500 thermography cameras purchased over the years for medical use in the U.S., but it is not known how many are currently in use.

Can thermography detect cancer?

Thermography is not a cancer detection device.  Accepted cancer detection usually takes place after it has matured over many years.  Thermography is a device intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or is intended to affect the structure or function of the body.  However, this does not mean that it detects cancer.

How can individuals find an imaging center?

There are a number of associations that list members and their locations.  You can start with the IAMT and look for locations.