Pain Visible

Preface: We all know that pain and its causes is difficult to be seen unless there was physical scars, and which has produced considerable difficulties to the diagnosis and treatment of pain patients. Now scientists from Sweden are working on a detection method, which can make pain "visible" for doctors in the absence of traumas.

We all know what pain feels like, but it is not always easy to identify it.

A broken bone and the effects of many diseases on the body can be seen. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to pinpoint the source of pain.

But doctors here at Uppsala University say they have made an important achievement in the battle against pain.

They are using positron emission tomography, or PET, scans which have been used in hospitals for almost a decade. A radioactive tracer is injected into the patient to develop a three-dimensional picture of the body.

Researchers here say they have used it successfully to diagnose the origin of pain.

They have mixed the usual radioactive tracer with a second substance called D-deprenyl, which they say attaches itself to the parts of the body where patients feel pain. Using the PET scans, researchers can develop images of the spots that indicate an uptake of the tracer mix.

Lieuwe Appel specializes in diagnosing PET scans. Seated at his computer, he explains what appears on a screen before him.

"Here we have a positron emission tomography picture. We call it a PET picture. It has been made with D-deprenyl that has been marked with Carbon-11. And here we can see a significant uptake of this tracer in this patient. They are the red marks on the screen, and this uptake corresponded with the area where the patient felt pain."

Another lead researcher on the project is Dr. Torsten Gordh, Professor of Pain Medicine at Uppsala University Hospital.

Gordh says the key to the research was finding the new tracer. He is convinced the researchers have found a substance which attaches itself to the spots where patients feel pain.

Gordh says although some patients are almost disabled by pain, most scans fail to detect it, and that is why PET is vital.

"With this PET method that we have developed we can actually see that there is an irritation where the patient feels pain. This is a very important tool when diagnosing the patient. The patient also gets a confirmation that something is wrong, and we get more basis for our methods when we work with the patient."

Gordh says one of the driving forces behind the research has been the patients he has felt helpless to diagnose and treat.

He says the research is deeply satisfying for him, because he believes he is closer to being able to make pain visible.

* Originally Posted: Top Diagnosis