Dutch researchers develop technology for pain monitoring

November 5, 2009,

Ten of thousands of patients suffer chronic pain as a result of operations, and this continues even after the wounds caused by the operation have healed. Researchers from the MIRA research institute - the University of Twente’s Research Institute for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine - have now developed a portable system that can be used to measure patients’ sensitivity to pain. The readings show which patients are likely to suffer chronic post-operative pain.

Some 10 to 25 per cent of all patients who undergo a minor operation, such as for a hernia or breast enlargement, are subsequently affected by chronic - in other words, tens of thousands of people are forced to endure pain on a daily basis after operations of this kind. In the case of more serious operations, the proportion is as high as 30 to 50 per cent. Chronic pain is defined as pain that can still be felt six months after an operation; that is, after the wound caused by the operation has healed.

It is still not entirely clear what causes , although it is known that hyperalgesia (heightened sensitivity to pain) plays a key role. In cases where post-operative pain becomes chronic, hyperalgesia spreads slowly from the area of the operation to other parts of the body. If it is possible to establish whether or not the increased sensitivity to pain will spread, it can be determined more quickly whether or not the pain will become chronic.

Scientists from the MIRA research institute at the University of Twente have now devised a mobile system that can measure sensitivity to pain simply and objectively. Thanks to their system, it will soon be possible to measure the spread of hyperalgesia and so discover whether or not pain will become chronic.

The system designed by the Twente researchers, which they have dubbed NociTRACK, consists of three parts: a device the size of a large , which measures pain sensitivity, a for collecting the data, and a central database that compares the data from individual patients with previous measurements from the same and other patients.

The device that takes the readings contains two electrodes, which are placed onto the skin. As soon as the patient presses a button on the device, it starts to emit weak electric pulses. These gradually become stronger and stronger, and once the patient finds the pain too uncomfortable, he lets go of the button and the pulses stop. This is registered as the patient's pain threshold and by comparing it to earlier readings, it is possible to determine whether he has become more or less sensitive to pain, or whether there has been any change at all.

There is also the option of using the system for measuring the pain detection threshold, where the patient stops pressing the button as soon as he starts to feel the pulses, and the pain tolerance threshold, in which case he releases the button when the pain is too great to bear.

With the help of larger localized facilities, the possibility of conducting measurements of this kind already existed. However, what makes NociTRACK unique is that a large number of patients can be monitored at any time and in any location, not just in a single examination room or with a fixed piece of equipment.

The NociTRACK system can be used for measuring objectively. The researchers believe it will reveal at an earlier stage than is now the case whether the post-operative pain being felt by any given patient will become chronic. In turn, this means that any relevant therapy can be started much earlier. Another feature of the system is that it can assess objectively how effective pain medication is, something that will be useful in the development of new medicines.

A patent for the system has now been applied for. As soon as it has been granted, the system will be developed further, either in an existing firm or a new spin-off company. The researchers are currently in the process of forming a group of researchers and clinicians who will be using the device.

Provided by University of Twente (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Fabric imbued with optical fibers helps fight skin diseases

February 23, 2018
A team of researchers with Texinov Medical Textiles in France has announced that their PHOS-ISTOS system, called the Fluxmedicare, is on track to be made commercially available later this year. The system consists of a piece ...

DNA gets away: Scientists catch the rogue molecule that can trigger autoimmunity

February 22, 2018
A research team has discovered the process - and filmed the actual moment - that can change the body's response to a dying cell. Importantly, what they call the 'Great Escape' moment may one day prove to be the crucial trigger ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

Breakthrough could lead to better drugs to tackle diabetes and obesity

February 22, 2018
Breakthrough research at Monash University has shown how different areas of major diabetes and obesity drug targets can be 'activated', guiding future drug development and better treatment of diseases.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.