At Stanford University School of Medicine in California, researchers are working to overcome one of the first major hurdles in effectively treating patients with pain problems--properly diagnosing pain levels. Traditionally, physicians have relied on self-report from patients as to the severity of the pain they are experiencing, and this self-report leads to large variations in frequency, intensity, and duration of pain between patients. Stanford scientists are working to find a more objective way to measure pain by a new technique that would measure brain activity. This new program would take a scan of the brain using MRI imaging techniques to accurately gauge patient pain over 80% of the time. The largest challenging to the develop of this tool is to be able to distinguish between different types of pain (acute, chronic, neuropathic) and to distinguish pain from mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. As of the present time, physicians still rely on patient self-report as the primary method of pain analysis and assessment, but perhaps in the future this may coincide with a brain scan for pain as well.
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