BACKGROUND: Current pain assessment methods in youth are suboptimal and vulnerable to bias and underrecognition of clinical pain. Facial expressions are a sensitive, specific biomarker of the presence and severity of pain, and computer vision (CV) and machine-learning (ML) techniques enable reliable, valid measurement of pain-related facial expressions from video. We developed and evaluated a CVML approach to measure pain-related facial expressions for automated pain assessment in youth.
METHODS: A CVML-based model for assessment of pediatric postoperative pain was developed from videos of 50 neurotypical youth 5 to 18 years old in both endogenous/ongoing and exogenous/transient pain conditions after laparoscopic appendectomy. Model accuracy was assessed for self-reported pain ratings in children and time since surgery, and compared with by-proxy parent and nurse estimates of observed pain in youth.
RESULTS: Model detection of pain versus no-pain demonstrated good-to-excellent accuracy (Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve 0.84–0.94) in both ongoing and transient pain conditions. Model detection of pain severity demonstrated moderate-to-strong correlations (r = 0.65–0.86 within; r = 0.47–0.61 across subjects) for both pain conditions. The model performed equivalently to nurses but not as well as parents in detecting pain versus no-pain conditions, but performed equivalently to parents in estimating pain severity. Nurses were more likely than the model to underestimate youth self-reported pain ratings. Demographic factors did not affect model performance.
CONCLUSIONS: CVML pain assessment models derived from automatic facial expression measurements demonstrated good-to-excellent accuracy in binary pain classifications, strong correlations with patient self-reported pain ratings, and parent-equivalent estimation of children’s pain levels over typical pain trajectories in youth after appendectomy.
- Accepted March 30, 2015.
- Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics