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Pediatric doctor creates device to measure pain in patients

Posted at 1:14 PM, Feb 05, 2019

Sarah Taylor is only 17 years old, but she lives with constant pain. She was diagnosed with arthritis at 18 months old, and she also suffers from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disease.

The teen says she does find some relief through acupuncture.

“I also rely on medication, but this is also a good way to keep it under control as well,” she says.

When Taylor was younger, she realized one of the biggest challenges she had was expressing her level of pain.

“It's difficult,” she says. “It's difficult to explain what the pain is. They can't feel the pain. They can't see the pain.”

It's for that very reason that Dr. Julia Finkel of Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. developed a device to help measure pain.

Using a photo of the pupil, the data collected in the "algometrx" device can literally measure pain. It also tells doctors if certain pain medications are working or not.

“That's part of the uniqueness of this device, because we can now look at patient and determine which drug or what kind of pain treatment makes the most sense,” Dr. Finkel, a pediatric anesthesiologist, explains.

Right now, the device is being tested in clinical trials. The doctor hopes her creation can not only help in pediatrics, but also in curbing the opioid crisis in America.

"Without an objective measure of pain, it’s difficult to prescribe appropriately and in the right amounts, and so with an objective view we're able to provide this precise and personalized application of pain medications, which prevents the misuse and over prescribing of opioids,” she explains.

For patients like Taylor, who can find her pain hard to describe, her wish is that someday this device becomes a tool for all doctors to use everywhere.

"This device could be so helpful to so many people, and I’m so glad she made it,” says Taylor.