Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune chronic inflammatory disorder with high prevalence among women over 50 years of age. Psoriatic arthritis (PSA) is another form of arthritis associated with the chronic immune-mediated skin condition psoriasis vulgaris. PSA typically appears about 10 years after the onset of psoriasis and leads to joint destruction and deformation. Diagnosis often fails to discriminate between polyarticular osteoarthritis of finger joints and RA or PSA in their early stages. Currently used imaging modalities for the diagnosis of inflammatory joint diseases require ionising radiation and suffer from operator-dependent variability and high cost. To achieve early diagnosis and treatment of arthritis, the EU-funded IACOBUS (Diagnosis and monitoring of inflammatory and arthritic diseases using a combined approach based on ultrasound, optoacoustic and hyperspectral imaging) project proposed a novel image-based diagnostic and monitoring approach that exceeds the existing standards in terms of image resolution and sensitivity. The system takes advantage of the fact that upon irradiation with short laser pulses, biological tissues generate broadband ultrasound waves that can be detected in a non-invasive manner. The system incorporates hyperspectral imaging for overview screening and high-resolution ultrasound/optoacoustic imaging for detailed investigation of small finger joints. The proposed approach benefits from a wide-field scan of the affected hand coupled with the identification of potential sites of inflammation, allowing an earlier and more reliable diagnosis. Project partners developed significant innovative technology to detect hypervascularisation, a characteristic pathophysiological feature of arthritis. They optimised the scanning system, using multichannel ultrasound and optoacoustic electronics for combined 3D tomographic imaging. Overall, the IACOBUS system provides a new means of accurate diagnosis and distinction between the different arthritis entities. Considering the big socioeconomic impact of arthritis and the importance of early intervention, this new screening method will help stratify patient groups and enable the development of personalised treatments. Furthermore, it could be used to monitor the outcome of arthritis treatment.
Arthritis, inflammatory, IACOBUS, ultrasound, optoacoustic, hyperspectral imaging