Last week the public sector workers union Unison published a report showing that four out of five workers suffered from back pain. Thanks to new research at the Royal Military College of Science (RMCS) part of Cranfield University, it is hoped that back problems will be diagnosed more consistently and accurately allowing for the correct treatment to be given.
Hundreds of patients at Swindon's Princess Margaret Hospital have taken part in this groundbreaking research into back pain. Marylin Vaughn and Steven Cavaill from the RMCS have been developing a computer system known as an artificial neural network which has been trained to diagnose low back pain complaints from a given set of symptoms.
Orthopaedic surgeons from Princess Margaret Hospital have been collaborating with the researchers to develop this diagnostic tool to increase surgeons' accuracy in decision making. The unique feature of this research is that the network will have an extensive explanation facility to explain to the surgeons how the decision was reached; this is believed to be the first in the world on this scale.
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr Michael Foy has been working on this project for some time and finds "the interface between artificial intelligence and clinical medicine very exciting. Back pain is a massive problem in this country and a great drain on the Exchequer. We are hoping to develop a system where neural networks can facilitate early diagnosis of back problems so the management can return to the primary care arena, the General Practitioner."
"Early diagnosis should allow effective education and rehabilitation and hopefully prevent long term disability. We hope that the ability to look at the characteristics of patients who have had technically adequate operations but poor clinical results may help us avoid problems of patient selection for surgery in the future. We are hoping to continue collecting data and maintain our links with Cranfield," he
Contact: Helen Meadows