Is the pain more flat or sharp? Is it a five, or more like a seven? Questions like these make you want to punch doctor’s face as you’re gritting your teeth trying not to involuntarily poop. Now there’s a machine to answer for you.
Pain communication is actually a pretty big stumbling block in medicine. The only way for doctors to get the information they need is to poke you or watch you squirm and then ask you about how it feels. Not the most efficient process in the world. Now researchers at Stanford have come up with a new method that takes scans of patients’ brains to determine whether they’re in pain, and to what degree.
It’s still early in the development stages, but in the initial study, the machine was correct 81% of the time determining whether a heat stimulus was warm or painfully hot. That’ll have to get better, obviously, but it’s a start. And the real upshot, beyond maybe getting rid of those annoying questions, will be to see if patients who can’t communicate with doctors are in pain. The downside? It’ll be a heck of a lot harder to haggle about pain prescriptions every time you go in for a bump or bruise. [TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow via The Atlantic]
Image: Sean Mackey, MD, PhD.