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Biswal Lab for Pain Imaging

at Stanford Medicine
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Pain is the #1 reason to see a doctor.

Pain is the #1 reason to miss work.  

Each year, the U.S. spends over $800 million to manage pain. Yet, up to 70% of the treatments are unsuccessful, leaving millions with undiagnosed pain, fueling the devastating opioid epidemic. 

Our lab group is developing a new medical imaging method to pinpoint the exact location of one's pain so that the doctor and patient can better treat the pain more accurately and effectively.


Our group has helped develop an imaging probe that is programmed to seek out pain receptors.

We inject this probe into the patient's vein. Then, we look at a map where the probe found the pain receptors.

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We create this map by placing the patient into a scanner called PET/MRI.


We look for 'hotspots' in the map (or image), which are areas in the body where the probe has stuck to a high number of pain receptors.


We create a report and discuss the findings with your physician who will try to develop a plan to treat your pain. 


Please click on 'Clinical Trial' or 'Patient Cases' to learn more.


Tremendous Unmet Need

Chronic pain is a significant, widespread problem affecting every fifth person worldwide. Reported in 2011 by the Institute of Medicine, chronic pain affects 116 million American adults - more than the total number of individuals affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined.  The current standard of care for diagnosing pain (MRI, X-rays, CT, ultrasound and EMG) has low sensitivity and poor accuracy, which leads to mismanagement of pain patients, unhelpful treatments, unnecessary surgeries and directly feeds into the opioid epidemic. Better clinical methods to diagnose and localize pain are desparately needed. 

Our Science

We are developing and validating new imaging approaches to enable early and accurate detection of the molecular underpinnings of pain by helping develop PET radiotracers (also referred to as 'tracers' or 'probes' or 'radioligands') or repurposing FDA-approved radiotracers designed to specifically pinpoint pro-nociceptive pathology.  After injecting a tracer intravenously into a volunteer, the tracer will localize to parts of the body which sends pain signals.  We then take a picture of the location of the tracer using a device called positron emission tomography/magnetc resonance imaging (PET/MRI).  The images obtained are evaluated and discussed with the referring physician. 

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