3D model helps patients track pain

Brunel University researchers have unveiled the world’s first 3D computer program to help patients record their pain. The system promises more detailed information to determine treatments and offer greater insight into the way pain travels around the body.


Patients in the initial trial with the Hillingdon Independent Wheelchair User Group (HIWUG) praised the high level of detail in the 3D model and the precise navigation control for collating pain data. The plan is for the prototype to contribute to better identification and subsequent best practice treatment of back pain – the second most common reason for people in the UK to visit their doctor, second only to the common cold.


The pain visualisation tool is displayed via a web browser as a 3D body. Users can log pain data on a PDA monitor at regular intervals. Pain can be classified as: burning, aching, stabbing, pins and needles, and numbness, with each pain type allocated a colour, which is represented on the 3D rotating tool.


The data is collected and the pain entries can be stored and replayed over an extended period as a rotating multimedia image, providing physicians with more detailed understanding of surface pain journeys.


Using a PDA-sized device, physicians can gain detailed insight into pain through the rotating 3D image. And they can use zoom, rotate and drag functions over the 3D patient avatar for pain depth perception.


Individual regions of the body can be selected and users can see symptoms and observe the 3D model from various viewpoints and for various periods. Additionally, the tool enables medical staff to save the details of consultations for later analysis and research.


Previously, the only tools available for most patients and practitioners to record back pain were traditional 2D pain drawings, according to Brunel researchers.


Dr George Ghinea, senior lecturer at Brunel University said, ‘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’.’

Ghinea added, ‘We have been very pleased with the response to our trials so far and hope that the 3D tool will help practitioners more accurately identify the symptoms of back pain, thus helping improve the chance for effective treatment and recovery of patients. We also hope that the tool will be of use in other areas of pain identification such as rheumatoid or muscle complaints.‘