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The challenge of objective scar colour assessment in a clinical setting: using digital photography

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 00:50 authored by J C Anderson, M J Hallam, C Nduka, Daniel Colaco OsorioDaniel Colaco Osorio
Objective: Scar assessment in the clinical setting is typically impeded by a lack of quantitative data and most systems rely on subjective rating scales which are user dependant and show considerable variability between raters. The growing use of digital photography in medicine suggests a more objective approach to scar evaluation. Our objective was to determine if cameras could be of practical use for measuring colour in a clinical setting. Method: The measurement of colour and reflectance spectra in photographs faces two difficulties: firstly the effects of variable illumination spectra, and secondly to recover accurate colour and spectral information from the sparse red, green and blue (RGB) camera signals. As a result the colour rendition is often inaccurate, and spectral information is lost. To deal with variable illumination and other factors that systematically affect all reflectance spectra ColourWorker (a method for image-based colour measurement implemented in software) calibrates the spectral responses of the camera’s RGB sensors using a colour standard in the image. To make best use of the calibrated signals, it takes advantage of the fact that although a given RGB signal can be caused by an infinite number of spectra, most natural reflectance spectra vary smoothly and have predictable forms. This means given a set of examples of spectra produced by the materials of interest, it is possible to estimate the specific spectrum that produced a given RGB signal once corrected for the illumination. We describe a method for recovering spectral and chromatic information relating to surface reflectance from ordinary digital images and apply this to analyse photographs of surgical scars, taken as part of a clinical trial, in an attempt to better quantify clinical scar assessment. It should be noted the pre-existing trial protocol did not allow for a comprehensive evaluation of the accuracy of the method which would require the spectrophotometric measurement of skin regions corresponding to those in the photographs. Results: Scar colour was estimated reliably, and with simple image analysis we were able to record the change in colour across the skin. Furthermore, we describe a simple automated assessment procedure that enables scar severity to be quantified and defined using a single scalar value easily. Conclusion: Such image-based colour measurement and assessment offers considerable advantages over other current methods, including spectrometers, which measure only a single point, or printed charts.


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  • Published

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  • Published version


Journal of Wound Care




Mark Allen Healthcare





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  • BSMS Publications

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