Imagine a computer program so clever, it senses the level of pain a patient is in and measures the exact amount of pain relief and sedative drugs they need.

A team of New Zealand engineers and medical experts is working on a device that will be able to do just that.

They hope their development will eventually be available for commercial use, potentially saving hospitals throughout the world billions of dollars in wasted drugs. It will also help speed up patient recovery.

The project began two years ago when University of Canterbury student Andrew Rudge, 25, began searching for a subject for his PhD in mechanical engineering.

His lecturer, Dr Geoff Case, had earlier met with Dr Geoff Shaw, an intensive care specialist at Christchurch Hospital, who had told him about the inherent problems in managing critically ill patients’ sedative and pain relief drug dosages.

Shaw told Case that current methods of assessing pain and agitation in patients were very subjective and often resulted in over-sedation.

The two main consequences of this were extended stays in intensive care units and increased drug use — both of which were costly.

More here.