Backing up backs

March 10, 2000

The Royal Military College of Science, part of Cranfield University, has developed an artificial neural network that can accurately diagnose lower back pain complaints from a given set of symptoms.

The RMCS researchers Marylin Vaughn and Steven Cavaill, hope that the network will lead to a solution to chronic back problems. Hundreds of patients at Swindon's Princess Margaret Hospital have taken part in the groundbreaking research, which has a unique facility that gives surgeons in-depth knowledge on how a diagnosis and treatment decision has been reached.

Michael Foy, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital, said: "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.

"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."

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