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Pain assessment tool for dementia patients launches in the UK

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A groundbreaking piece of technology that gives a voice to people who cannot verbalise their pain has officially launched in the UK.

PainChek is an intelligent pain assessment tool that uses AI and smartphone technology to analyse micro-facial expressions indicative of pain to enable carers to identify the presence of pain in dementia and cognitively impaired patients who struggle to communicate.

Carers and healthcare professionals can also use the tool to quantify the severity of the pain and to monitor the impact of treatment.

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Pete Shergill, PainChek country director for the UK and Ireland, said: “Sadly, so many of our most vulnerable in society experience chronic or acute pain, but this often goes undetected and under-treated in people with communication difficulties from medical conditions such as dementia. It is a daily challenge for carers and healthcare professionals to assess pain in non-communicative individuals. Often pain goes undetected or untreated, which can lead to unnecessary prescribing, behavioural and psychological issues and decreased quality of life.”

To operate the tool, a care worker uses a smart phone camera to record a short video of a person’s face. PainChek then analyses the images using facial recognition analytics.

The technology recognises facial muscle movements that indicate pain and takes note of them. Next, the carer uses PainChek to record their observations of pain-related behaviours. Finally, the solution calculates an overall pain score and stores the result, allowing the carer to monitor the effect of medication and treatment over time.

Shergill added: “Unique in the UK, PainChek is a quick, easy-to-use solution to measuring pain, allowing informed clinical decisions to be made for effective pain management. It represents a game-changer for the UK in the way it manages pain in people living with dementia and there can be no doubt as to the tangible improvement in quality of live for our ageing population.”

Pain amongst people living with dementia is very common, with at least 50% regularly experiencing pain, according to PainChek’s senior research scientist, Kreshnik Hoti.

The associate professor said: “Pain causes significant distress and discomfort for everyone, and for people living with dementia, untreated pain is a significant problem that affects their quality of life and behaviour as they’re unable to communicate their pain. As a pain assessment solution, PainChek provides healthcare practitioners with a valid, reliable and accurate means of assessing pain.”

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Sarah Clarke

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