I recently attended a days course to understand Thermal imaging better. I decided to go on the course due to having many negative views on thermal imaging and its uses. These views are due to the poor standardization of images, minimal/poor reports if not absent and difficulty in controlling the environment/horse to get a satisfactory reading.
The main point to understand about Thermal Imaging is that like animal/veterinary physiotherapy it is not a regulated/protected service. This means that the quality of devices can range dramatically from cheap versions you can download on your phone, to hand held units to £20K cameras. The ability of the person Imaging and the knowledge/qualifications of the interpreter can vary dramatically. Due to this Thermal imaging is not recognized as a diagnostic tool by the British Veterinary Assoiciation (BVA).
Sync Thermology Has been developed to set a 'Gold Standard' for Thermal imaging. They have specific guidelines to work within meaning that each client/patient will have standardized images and report. If the environment/weather is not conducive for thermal imaging they rearrange to get the best readings possible. They have trained technicians in using their state of the art imaging cameras. All reports are done by a specialist vet within that area - ie their is one vet used for all equine image readings.
The most interesting part I found was that they do a base reading before exercise and then a another set of images after work. This means that they can spend half a day scanning one whole horse to get the best results possible.
This course did change my views on Thermal Imaging as it showed that there are now Sync Thermology technicians out there trying to standardize the points of concern I have previously had.
As to how useful a diagnostic tool Thermal Imaging is I feel the jury is still out. Sync Thermology are currently trying to gain as much data as possible to show their benefits as a diagnostic tool compared to the current standard Scintigraphy (bones scanning).
Like Scintigraphy, Thermal Imaging, can only highlight the areas of concern. From here further diagnostic imaging is then needed to make a diagnosis for example X-rays, MRI, Ultrasound Scans.
The cost however is more appealing for Sync Thermology Imaging as can be up to a couple of hundred pounds compared to Scintigraphy which generally is over a thousand pounds.
I believe this is an up and coming area for future diagnostic tools within the animal world and it is definitively not something to be overlooked when you are struggling to find the answers for those complicated cases.