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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 00:09 GMT
3D computer map pinpoints pains
3D computer program image
The program highlights where pain is and what form it takes
People in pain could soon use a 3D computer program to explain how severe their symptoms are.

It has been developed by a team at Brunel University to help wheelchair users log, from home, how they are feeling during the course of a day.

Currently, patients have to detail how their pain has been on pen and paper during their visits to the doctor.

The program, which only requires a standard portable computer, can be uploaded by doctors at any point.

Because it uses a PDA, patients can collate the information while they are at home
Dr George Ghinea, Brunel University

It means doctors can build up information on how pain changes and the types of pain a patient has.

The device has been tested by about 15 people in the Hillingdon Independent Wheelchair Users Group, based in west London, for almost two years.

'More realistic'

It was developed by researchers to help register how a person's pain changed during the day, particularly after medication was taken.

Patients use a standard PDA, costing around 250, to log where they feel pain on a 3D body image, which allows the user to zoom in on certain areas or rotate the image. They can also class their pain as burning, aching, stabbing, pins and needles or numbness - which are each represented as a different colour.

The data can be stored on the PDA, with future entries being added so doctors can see how a patient's condition changes.

Dr George Ghinea, a senior lecturer at Brunel University who worked on the study, said: "We hope this provides a much more realistic view of the whole body for the patients, who say they find it much more natural to use.

"Also, because it uses a PDA, patients can collate the information while they are at home, and they don't have to come into the doctor's surgery.

"Our research identified that a more accurate method for pain visualisation was needed in order for patients to describe and record the pain that they were experiencing, and for physicians to track and better understand patient pain `journeys'."

The researchers are now hoping to attract commercial interest in the model for widespread use in hospitals.

Dries Hettinga, research and information manager for the charity BackCare, said: "The new 3D model is a new additional tool that allows patients to communicate more effectively and accurately with their treating doctor or therapist.

"There is no doubt that IT will continue to contribute to this area.

"Nevertheless, further research is essential to test the validity and usefulness of this new 3D computer model, and it is hoped that the researchers at Brunel University will undertake this work."

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