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Essential Features of a Handheld Infrared Thermometer Used to Guide the Treatment of Neuropathic Feet

James G. Foto National Hansen’s Disease Programs, Baton Rouge, LA.

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Denise Brasseaux National Hansen’s Disease Programs, Baton Rouge, LA.

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James A. Birke Diabetic Foot Program, Louisiana State University Health Science Center, Baton Rouge, LA.

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Background: A study was conducted to compare the accuracy, reliability, and essential features of nine commercially available handheld infrared thermometers used to manage the neuropathic foot.

Methods: The thermometers were compared using two temperature-control sources simulating physiologic conditions found in a foot-care clinic. With each control source independently set, temperature difference ranges of 0°, 2°, 4°, and 6° C were randomly sampled and analyzed for each thermometer by two testers. The order of testing was randomly assigned for testers and instruments.

Results: There were differences in mean temperature change among thermometers (P < .001) and between testers (P = .0247). Differences in mean temperature change among instruments (<0.5°C), although small, could affect interpretation of skin temperature if temperature comparisons are made using two different instruments. The difference in temperature change between testers (0.06°C) was not large enough to affect decisions in clinical practice. Instrument response time, distance-to-spot ratio, sensor diameter, display resolution, emissivity, and cost were compared.

Conclusions: The low-cost, general-use infrared thermometers used in this study showed good accuracy, reliability, and performance and are appropriate for use in a foot-care clinic. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 97(5): 360–365, 2007)

Corresponding author: James G. Foto, BSME, CPed, Senior Biomedical Research Engineer, National Hansen’s Disease Programs, 1770 Physicians Park Dr, Baton Rouge, LA 70816.