New Tool to Measure Pain on the Works

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Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California are putting all their efforts in developing a diagnostic tool that may help determine an objective physiological assessment of one’s pain. Currently, most health practitioners make use of subjective or personal perceptions of pain. The researchers made use of functional brain magnetic resonance imaging with advanced computer algorithms. This method accurately predicted about 81% of thermal pain in healthy subjects. This finding was reported in the September issue of the online journal PLoS One.

On the other hand, they also pointed out that this study is just the start of a long list of studies that need to be conducted. The researchers made specific mention of other types of pain like chronic pain, acute pain, etc and studies whether their discovered method will work out well in the aforementioned types of pain. Also, researchers are looking into the possibility of distinguishing an acceptable level of accuracy linking emotional depression and anxiety, and pain.

Pain or algesia is a very subjective condition that’s why it is called a symptom. Some people may see the unreasonableness of pursuing a research aimed at identifying objective measurements of pain. However, researchers acknowledge the dire need of such tool in objectively measuring pain among patients.

“People have been looking for a pain detector for a very long time. We rely on patient self-reporting for pain, and that remains the gold standard,” according to Dr. Sean Mackey, associate professor of anesthesia and chief of the Division of Pain Management at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He said that even as a doctor himself, he relies on subjective standards but he further shared that many patients, especially the very young and the very old population, need more objective measurements.

In the report of the Institute of Medicine last June 2011, it was estimated that more than 100 million Americans are suffering from pain that is chronic in nature. This results to an estimated annual expenditure of 600 billion dollars             tantamount to medical costs and lost productive hours. The report also shared that there is a cultural bias towards patient with chronic pain, them being viewed as weak and fragile people who often malinger and perceived to lie about the pain they feel. This makes the treatment more complicated, said the IOM.

An objective measurement for pain is also important in the legal, ethical and social issues arising from medical sciences. According to a law professor in the same school, hundreds of thousands of lawsuits where pain becomes a reckoning point.

In their findings, the researchers concluded that Our findings demonstrate that fMRI with SVM learning can assess pain without requiring any communication from the person being tested.
“We’re hopeful we can eventually use this technology for better detection and better treatment of chronic pain.” Mackey also pointed out that, “A key thing to remember is that this approach objectively measured thermal pain in a controlled lab setting.”

 

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  1. Chronic Pain Observer says:

    What this research doesn’t address is the degree to which each of us is impaired by pain. Even if you determine that someone is in pain, knowing how that is going to affect their quality of life is going to depend on finding out how the person deals with it. Personality will determine this and a simple 2D image isn’t going to assess personality.

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