Online neurological diagnosis

The Trigeminal Neuralgia Diagnostic Questionnaire uses a neural net to diagnose forms of the "suicide disease," a neurological disorder characterized by facial pain so severe patients beg to be killed.

An accurate diagnosis means patients can more quickly seek appropriate treatment, he said. "A patient comes in and says, 'I'm having pain,' so a dentist might give him a root canal. The pain comes back, so the tooth is pulled out. People have all kinds of unbelievable things done before somebody finally says, 'You know what? Maybe this isn't your tooth.' To prevent unnecessary procedures, people need to be told early on what they have."


"We hope that as people use this system, they become more and more informed, because they should be able to make informed choices before they actually get into treatment," Burchiel said.

One treatment Burchiel offers, and which Hill has received, is a surgical therapy called microvascular decompression. The procedure involves entering the brain through a small incision behind the ear, finding and exposing the trigeminal nerve with a powerful surgical microscope, and positioning a piece of Teflon between the nerve and the artery that's touching it and causing the pain. [Videos available.]

In most cases, the procedure offers longer-term relief from facial pain than many, less-effective or inappropriate treatments people seek when they haven't been accurately diagnosed.

"People who have this condition are desperate for answers for what they have, so now, anywhere in world, somebody can log onto our Web site and basically diagnose themselves and go to the right resources," Burchiel said. "And we put the resources right there on the Web site."

The educational web site also offers neurosurgery videos, MRI protocol, and more.

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