We present a method for noninvasively imaging the hand joints using a three-dimensional (3D) photoacoustic imaging (PAI) system. This 3D PAI system utilizes cylindrical scanning in data collection and virtual-detector concept in image reconstruction. The maximum lateral and axial resolutions of the PAI system are 70 μm and 240 μm. The cross-sectional photoacoustic images of a healthy joint clearly exhibited major internal structures including phalanx and tendons, which are not available from the current photoacoustic imaging methods. The in vivo PAI results obtained are comparable with the corresponding 3.0 T MRI images of the finger joint. This study suggests that the proposed method has the potential to be used in early detection of joint diseases such as osteoarthritis.

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