Former childhood cancer patient creates an easy-to-use device to help determine if an animal or person is in pain.
Columbus, OH July 12, 2004 -- As a five-year-old childhood cancer patient in 1962, Sue Benford bristled every time a nurse or doctor asked her "How much does it hurt?" There was no easy way for a young child to describe the intensity of her pain – either then or now. The situation is even more difficult for animals that can't speak. "One of the most common questions in veterinary medicine is: 'Is (s)he in pain?'" says Dr. Kriston Sherman, DVM, veterinary acupuncturist and private practitioner in Columbus, Ohio.
According to the 2002 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook, in 2001, over 67% of Americans owned either a dog or cat. At one time or another, most of these animals will experience some degree of pain. This is especially true for those animals that develop chronic conditions, such as hip dysplasia, which afflicts between 20-40% of large breed dogs (source: Orthopedic Foundation for Animals).
In 2003, Benford, now a registered nurse and the President of Public Health Information Services (PHIS), Inc. created a simple tool to help animals, and non-verbal humans, communicate their pain. Called the Pain Gauge®, the hand-held, computerized device uses Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), best known for its role in lie detection, to record the level of stress and/or pain the animal or person is in. Touching a non-fur/hair area of the body will generate a digital 0-9.9 reading in only one-second. The reading corresponds to the standard 0-10 pain scales being used in both human and veterinary medicine.
Benford is quick to point out that the Pain Gauge is an "assessment tool" not a "diagnostic tool". "The Pain Gauge is like a thermometer in that it only tells you what the body is experiencing and not what is causing it." Heightened levels of stress and pain will register the same way.
The device was introduced by The Ohio State University Professor of Anesthesia Section, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Dr. William W. Muir, III, at the recent Assessment and Treatment of Pain and Distress in Animals conference held in Columbus, Ohio. Muir, who has tested and used the device, recognizes the Pain Gauge’s potential as one of the few objective tools available for assessing pain and stress in a variety of animal species. He’s not alone.
According to Dr. Donya Dunlevy, a veterinarian with Animal Care Unlimited in Columbus, Ohio, "We have sent it (the Pain Gauge) home with owners to monitor pain in their animals, employed it to assess post-operative, hospitalized patients, and included it during outpatient examinations. We have just recently added the Pain Gauge to our permanent exam checklist so that every patient that gets an exam will get a Pain Gauge reading." For more information visit www.paingauge.com .
For veterinarian interviews/photos please contact M. Sue Benford.
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