Caroline Hartley and Oxford colleagues studied 72 infants during painful medical procedures. Using EEG, they found a signature change in brain activity about a half-second after a painful stimulus. They seek to understand its use in monitoring and managing infant pain, as well as the use of EEG in adult pain treatment.
EEG is more precise than current heart rate, oxygen saturation level, and facial expression pain assessment, which are affected by other stressful, non-painful events.
In one experiment, 11 out of 12 infants had a decreased pain-related EEG signal after doctors applied a topical anesthetic to their feet. A new study uses EEG to test the efficacy of morphine in infants, whose skin and intestines absorb drugs differently than adults.
EEG is being miniaturized by companies such as Neurosteer, making it an increasingly viable option for continuous pain, attention, and consciousness monitoring and treatment optimization.
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When we experience pain in a clinical setting, we are asked to rate it on a scale of 1-10, which guides our treatment plan. This method is obviously imprecise, but also irrelevant if a patient cannot communicate or is under anesthesia.
Medasense is developing a finger mounted wearable with a sensor that records physiological signs of pain. The measurements are derived from the nonlinear composite of heart rate, heart rate variability, amplitude of the photoplethysmogram, skin conductance, fluctuations in skin conductance, and their time derivatives. Algorithms convert the data into a real-time, continuous index on a bedside monitor. The system is meant to be used both in the hospital and at home.
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Purdue researchers have created an implantable drug-delivery system using nanowires that can be controlled wirelessly.
The nanowires respond to an electromagnetic field generated by a device used to control the release of a preloaded drug. Tubes and wires required by other implantable devices are eliminated, minimizing the risk of infection and complications.
According to lead author Richard Borgens: “This tool allows us to apply drugs as needed directly to the site of injury, which could have broad medical applications, The technology is in the early stages of testing, but it is our hope that this could one day be used to deliver drugs directly to spinal cord injuries, ulcerations, deep bone injuries or tumors, and avoid the terrible side effects of systemic treatment with steroids or chemotherapy.”
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Cur is a wearable pain relief system, similar to Quell, (see ApplySci, 1/13/15) for people who respond to TENS. It uses uses electrical stimulation to stop pain at its source. The bandaid-like device sticks directly to skin, and all the modulation of electrical signals is automatically controlled by built in sensors. Users can also adjust the amount of stimulation with a smartphone app.
The company claims that “within five seconds it measures muscle vibrations, and uses those vibrations to adjust the amplitude—the strength of the treatment.”
The wearable must receive FDA approval for a low-risk wellness device. If effective, non-drug pain relievers, like Pur and Quell, could help sufferers avoid the addiction and debilitating side effects associated with narcotic pain medicine.
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