By Ali Reza
The problem of pain is innate to the human experience: For as long as people have existed, they have experienced different levels and different types of physical discomfort, and anything from a stubbed toe to a major automobile accident can cause that pain to intensify. Of course, countless dollars and man hours are devoted to finding new ways to mitigate pain, sometimes to some effect and sometimes to little effect at all—but what if we told you that there is a new device that can literally put effective pain management into the palm of your hand?
Well, we should clarify: It wouldn’t be your hand, but the hand of your surgeon. A new handheld device could provide doctors and physicians with a revolutionary new approach to treating pain—and of course, medical patients the world over could benefit from this technology’s implementation.
The Rise of Chimaera
So what is this groundbreaking new surgical tool? Its mythology-referencing name is Chimaera, and its intent is to help surgeons identify the correct nerve with effortlessness and ease, providing them with real-time feedback during their operations. In short, it will make delicate nerve procedures much more manageable and much less unwieldy for surgeons—which could in effect revolutionize medicine.
That’s because nerves, as you might have heard, are pretty important, and in particular they are vital to the topic of pain. Pain emanates from nerves. Whether you’re talking about the pain of a migraine headache, a twisted limb, or a paper cut, pain is experienced through the transmission of electrical signals from the nerves. Researchers, seeking new ways to manage and minimize pain, have long focused on overriding these nervous signals.
And there has been some progress made in this undertaking. Over the past few years, researchers have unveiled devices called neuromodulators, which function as implants and can, in theory, cease the experience of pain. The efficacy of these devices, however, depends on surgeons being able to locate the right nerves—no easy feat.
Getting the Right Nerves
There are many dangers to this process, because nerves often lay in big jumbles- especially in the face and behind the eyes. As such, picking through them to find the one that’s transmitting pain can be a big challenge—and getting it wrong can provide extreme damage to the patient.
Enter the Chimaera. This device helps surgeons to locate and access specific nerves, and it functions with relative ease. The surgeon holds the device—a kind of hand-held wand, wireless and portable—near the point of planned incision. Chimaera then sends information about that place to a computer, where it is combined with a CT scan of the patient’s brain. All of this data is then combined into something that looks a little like an X-ray. Surgeons then don Google Glass (yes, really!) to examine the place of the surgery, and the data from the Chimaera allows them to see a map of the pertinent nerves, making it possible for them to implement their surgical tools with as much precision as possible.
The bottom line? Using Chimaera technology, surgeons can operate while doing as little damage as possible, sparing healthy nerves and ultimately implanting that pain-reducing neuromodulator with much greater effectiveness than would otherwise be possible.
A New World for Pain Management
It is difficult to overstate the potential significance of Chimaera. Consider this: Right now, delicate nerve operations can only be conducted by a handful of surgeons—the most skilled and in-demand surgeons across the planet. But if Chimaera is implemented and proves successful, it could make neuromodulator use commonplace, which will be good news indeed for anyone who suffers from migraines or other forms of chronic pain.
This technology is still in its conceptual stage, and probably won’t be in widespread use any time soon—but it is remarkable to think how this confluence of handheld technology with Google Glass and a good old-fashioned CT scan may make pain management more possible and more effective than ever before.