Department of Neurosurgery
Brown Researchers Develop New Test to Objectively Measure Pain, Test Medications
“PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — If you’ve ever visited the emergency department with appendicitis, or you’re one of the 100 million U.S. adults who suffer from chronic pain, you’re familiar with a row of numbered faces, with expressions from smiling to grimacing, used to indicate pain levels.
Despite that tool’s widespread use, some researchers say a more empirical approach would better serve both patients and the physicians who provide care.
‘Sadly, this scale of smiley faces, called the visual analogue scale, is the gold-standard pain-assessment tool,’ said Carl Saab, an associate professor of neuroscience and neurosurgery (research) at Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital. ‘Our goal is to associate specific brain activity with various scores on the numerical scale to make pain assessment more objective. We want to help patients with chronic pain and their physicians get into agreement about pain level so it is better managed and diagnosed, which may reduce the over-prescription of opioids.’