New app helps docs predict post-surgical pain

Patients now have a new app available to them that can predict how much pain they will experience after a hernia surgery, according to an article published recently in the Wall Street Journal. The app, named CeQOL (Carolinas Equation of Quality of Life), helps patients determine how likely they are to experience chronic pain or discomfort following the surgery, according to its creator, B. Todd Heniford, chief of gastrointestinal and minimally invasive surgery at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. WSJ recently published statistics showing that 30 percent or more of hernia surgery patients experience chronic pain post-surgery.

Heniford says he also wants physicians to use the app, to help discuss the possibilities of chronic pain and other complications with patients before surgery.

"I like informed patients who come to me with questions, and the app can help us get down to what our patients want out of surgery and what they are afraid of," Heniford tells WSJ.

The app's algorithms are based on an ongoing study of hernia-surgery patients, collected in the International Hernia Mesh Registry. Patients submit and answer questions about their pain levels from before surgery, all the way out to two years post-procedure.
Heniford tells WSJ he hopes the underlying formulae ultimately can be used to predict outcomes in other conditions, such as congestive heart failure.

Researchers in Switzerland, meanwhile, are tackling another aspect of pain prediction and measurement. They're testing whether passive monitoring of a patient's activity level can yield formulae--translated into bar codes--that can objectively measure chronic pain levels, removing the subjectivity of self-reporting.

Pain apps and monitoring may have a bit of an image problem to overcome, however, before they're fully accepted, according to a study conducted last fall by researchers from the University of Bath in the U.K. In a study of 111 consumer-facing apps for pain, more than 85 percent had no involvement from a credible medical professional, and little clinical underpinnings.

"In a population often desperate for a solution to distressing and debilitating pain conditions, there is considerable risk of individuals being mis-sold, misled, and cynically overpromised hope," professor Chris Eccleston, from the Centre for Pain Research, said in a statement.

To learn more :
- read the WSJ blog
- dig into the WSJ article on post-surgery pain
- check out iMedicalApps' story on pain bar coding
- get more detail from this University of Bath announcement