Results for 2016

Propofol on trial for headaches in the Emergency Department setting

Headache is a common and frequently disabling clinical disorder that accounts for nearly 2% of all emergency department presentations. Often patients are experiencing a headache that is not responding to commonly available medications. However, there is no good evidence to support which available hospital medications consistently offer effective pain relief to individuals with these types of refractory headache. Understandably this is a challenging scenario in the emergency department setting for both the patient and physician that often leads to inadequate or unsatisfactory symptom relief.

In a few small trials, there has been promising evidence that the medication propofol is potentially an effective, safe and quick treatment alternative for stubborn headaches. It is important to note that propofol is not a new medication and is routinely used on a daily basis throughout hospitals for both general anaesthesia and procedural sedation.

It is the intention of this research project to demonstrate that infusing a low dose of this medication over a relatively short period of time is an effective new use for a familiar and already commonly utilised medication. This treatment is aimed at a specific cohort of patients who present with acute or subacute migraine-like headache in whom the standard available treatment options have failed.

This study has the potential to introduce a new safe and effective treatment option for stubborn headaches that can significantly reduce treatment times by rapidly restoring patients to baseline levels of function and comfort. Furthermore it reduces overall lengths of stay in the emergency department and contributes to overall improved emergency department patient flow.


A brief psychological intervention to promote recovery after mild traumatic brain injury

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a common injury with potentially profound consequences. Although many patients recover within a few days to a few weeks, an estimated 15-40% develop post-concussion syndrome (PCS), which consists of an array of cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms.(TBI symptoms that persist beyond three months often develop into a chronic, potentially life-long, health problem.)

PCS is associated with problems returning to work, social difficulties, higher healthcare utilisation, and poorer quality of life. The mitigation of PCS represents a significant clinical problem. An effective evidence-based early intervention to prevent PCS is sorely needed.

There is a growing consensus that differences in patient outcomes from mTBI are due to a range of biopsychosocial factors. For example, stress, anxiety, cognitive biases, sleep disturbance, and structural brain damage are among a number of factors that influence PCS symptom report. A focus on modifiable psychosocial factors (e.g., thoughts and behaviours) offers a promising solution: Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) is well suited to altering the maladaptive beliefs, misattributions, cognitive biases and coping behaviours that promote chronicity in PCS.

The purpose of this study is to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of a Cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy (CBT)-based early intervention for patients at high-risk of developing PCS after mTBI. It is a two-site non-blinded, parallel group, randomised controlled trial comparing treatment-as-usual (TAU) and TAU+CBT intervention.

Developing an effective intervention for PCS is a critical and much-needed step in advancing our approach to the clinical management of mTBI. The outcomes of this research can inform the coordination of post-discharge care and treatment pathways, and reduce readmissions and new occasions of care.


First aid oxygen treatment of divers with decompression sickness

Decompression sickness (DCS), commonly called the bends, involves formation of gas bubbles in the body following scuba diving. These bubbles can cause a variety of problems, ranging from minor aches and pain, to severe stroke-like symptoms.

Providing pre-hospital oxygen therapy at the highest concentration possible provides needed oxygen to body tissues, reduces bubbles and can often relieve symptoms. Oxygen has been shown to reduce the number of hyperbaric treatments a diver with DCS will require so improving pre-hospital oxygen delivery will lead to decreased hospital costs. However, the ideal oxygen delivery system has not been determined.

Using new techniques and equipment, this research will identify the optimal device for delivering oxygen to divers with DCS leading to recommendations which will improve the health outcomes of injured divers. We will measure how effectively varied breathing devices deliver oxygen to the body tissues and remove bubbles from the diver’s blood while assessing innovative equipment. This study will assess a new commercially available oral mask to improve oxygen delivery with a demand system. A medical oxygen re-breather, which like an anaesthetic machine absorbs carbon dioxide and adds small amounts of oxygen to the breathing circuit, will be also assessed.

Assessing the use of these devices will not only determine their efficacy to deliver oxygen to injured divers but also provide guidance on appropriate systems to use for dive operators with limited medical oxygen. Assessing the change in bubble grade with oxygen delivery will add evidence for its use.

This research will provide information that can guide pre-hospital and emergency clinicians when choosing the type of oxygen delivery devices used for injured divers improving patient outcomes and decreasing costs.


Evaluating rates of skin colonisation with MRSA or Group A Streptococci

Group A Streptococcal (GAS) is known to be the cause of Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Chronic Rheumatic Heart Disease (CRHD).

Worldwide Community acquired (CA) Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is an increasing problem which has also been identified in Australia since the 1990s. At times, the rates in North West HHS have been as high as 30%. This has implications for both the local HHS and the health system more broadly for patients that then require transfer to other facilities.

The purpose of this research is to conduct a snapshot study for the evaluation of rate of skin colonisation or infection with MRSA and/or Group A Streptococci (SCIMAG).

The aim of this study is to establish the percentage of patients with skin colonisation and/or infection with GAS and/or MRSA. It will assess the utility of point of care (non-culture) methods to detect colonisation and/or infection. This is of relevance not only for the Mount Isa Hospital Emergency Department (MIH ED), but both State-wide and nation-wide.

Findings from this research will contribute to the development and implementation of a guideline for diagnosis and antibiotic treatment (antibiotic stewardship) for Mount Isa and the North West. This guideline would be applicable to other States.


Ketamine versus propofol in sedation of psychiatric patients requiring retrieval

In this study, we will compare the safety and effectiveness of ketamine and propofol in sedating acute psychiatric patients needing aeromedical retrieval. We believe that this is the first trial of its kind which will elucidate the complications, the safety profile and effectiveness of the two drugs in sedating acute psychiatric patients. The study will be a prospective, open-labelled, randomised controlled trial. Patients will be drawn the Northern Territory and Queensland. Through this study, we will better inform clinicians in their choice of a suitable sedation agent and potential provide an additional sedation choice in aeromedical and other critical care environments. Furthermore, this research has the potential to establish sedation guidelines in the aeromedical retrieval of acute psychiatric patients for Australia and internationally.


Is prednisolone an effective treatment for Bell’s Palsy in children?

Bell’s palsy or acute idiopathic lower motor neurone facial paralysis is characterised by sudden onset paralysis or weakness of the muscles to one side of the face controlled by the facial nerve. It is the third most common neurological reason for children to present acutely to hospital.

In adults, there is conclusive evidence from two major recent trials that a short course of prednisolone, a cheap, widely available and safe steroid, can significantly increase the number of Bell’s palsy patients who completely recover. While the medical problems associated with Bell’s palsy are similar, in children there is no good evidence that prednisolone is an effective treatment.

Many neurological conditions progress differently in children and treatment methods sometimes vary. Children may react differently to prednisolone and without paediatric evidence; treatment guidelines for children with Bell’s palsy remain absent or vague, with variable and overall low rates of steroid use in children by physicians.

The lack of evidence and clinical uncertainty in the treatment of Bell’s palsy in children warrants a definitive trial to determine the efficacy of prednisolone as a treatment for this condition in children. The aim of this study is to assess the utility of steroids in Bell’s palsy in children in a large multicentre randomised, placebo-controlled, trial. The trial will take place in at least 10 hospitals within Australia and New Zealand, involving more than 500 children.


Link between clinical errors and emergency shift patterns

There is a well-established link between shift work, nurse exhaustion and clinical errors. However there is a lack of research focusing specifically on Emergency Departments (ED) and nurse rostering patterns.

ED nurses are at particular risk of fatigue due to the fast-paced and demanding nature of the work environment caring for high acuity patients, increasing the risk of clinical errors and threatening patient safety. Shift work in the ED is an around-the-clock occupation, frequently nurses are required to commence work at 07:00 on the morning following a 21:30 finish, a shift pattern termed a “late/early”. Understanding the impact that this shift pattern may have in adverse clinical events is critical for patient and staff well-being.

This novel project will collect and analyse retrospective data from the ED at Nambour General Hospital to ascertain whether late/earlies are associated with adverse patient outcomes. We will use a logistic regression model to analyse data collected from PRIME (electronic database for clinical incident reporting), TrendCare (online nurse rostering system), EDIS (Emergency Department Information System) and patient medical records. This analysis will allow us to identify any association between clinical incident severity rating, patient outcomes, time of the incident, staff roster patterns and level of nursing experience.

The results of this study will therefore provide significant insights into the relationship between ED nurse shift patterns and adverse clinical events. The outcomes of this research may be used to assist and improve rostering practices, fatigue management, staff well being, and improve patient safety outcomes.


Carotid doppler ultrasound with passive leg raise for fluid responsiveness

Fluid therapy is a valuable entity and a valuable clinical entity. However there is uncertainty regarding the fluid responsiveness of patients, particularly those with severe infections. Potential risks of fluid overload (i.e. too much fluid) exist. Excessive fluid administration is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

Carotid doppler ultrasound and passive leg raise is a way of estimating fluid responsiveness. By using this technique we believe that it will tell us if a patient will tolerate an intravenous fluid bolus of 500ml.

The aim of this study is to determine if doppler ultrasound of the common carotid artery blood flow before and after PLR is a realistic method by which to determine fluid responsiveness in the acute care setting. Also the review the ease of which this can be taught to emergency doctors.

Participants volunteered will be shown an instructional video, given practice session and have an observational assessment of performing the technique. Post this confidence in the technique will be surveyed.


Prescribing patterns and communication for oxycodone on ED discharge

There are growing public health concerns that opioid medications are being increasingly and excessively prescribed. These medications may have a serious side effect profile including sedation, tolerance, and development of addiction, and may subsequently be diverted in the community for non-medical use.

The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention for discharge oxycodone prescribing relevant to Australian Emergency Departments. The principal aims are to decrease the amount of oxycodone prescribed, improve practitioner awareness of local opioid prescribing behaviour, and improve documentation around oxycodone use on discharge.

This quality assurance evaluation study will measure the success of a multifaceted oxycodone prescribing intervention and its impact on oxycodone prescribing for patients discharged home from the Emergency Department (ED). The project is hypothesized to reduce oxycodone prescribing, improve discharge documentation, and ensure appropriate follow up plans are in place.

Pain is a common symptom in ED patients, and is often the primary reason patients seek emergency medical attention. A recent baseline audit of local prescribing records revealed oxycodone, an opioid pain medication, is prescribed in approximately 5% of patients discharged home from this ED (with an annual census of 77,500 presentations). Clinical documentation and discharge communication was either absent, incomplete, or inconsistent when discharge plans for dosing, duration of therapy, follow-up reviews and de-escalation of therapy were analysed.

To our knowledge, no published Australian data is available on oxycodone prescribing behaviours from EDs. If this project is successful, the amount of oxycodone prescribed will reduce, patients will be better informed, and the quality of medical handover to General Practitioners will improve.

With 7.4 million patient presentations to Australian EDs in 2014-15, the successful translation of an oxycodone prescribing intervention through clinical awareness and action would contribute to reducing the overall burden of opioids in the broader community


Will a replicable ultrasound training intervention improve intravenous cannulation processes?

Most patients need intravenous access in the emergency department, but many suffer multiple attempts before the health provider is successful. This can cause patient distress and delays the time to potentially life-saving treatments.

We believe an ultrasound-guided cannulation training program will enable better recognition of patients with difficult intravenous access and increase use of ultrasound during cannulation, hence decreasing time to cannulation, increasing success rates, and reducing the number of punctures required

In this study, we are examining the current practice of inserting intravenous (IV) cannulas in the Emergency Department at the Gold Coast University Hospital. We will consider how many people get cannulas, number of attempts required, who inserts them, how successful we are, how often ultrasound is used to guide this insertion, time to successful cannulation, who uses ultrasound and how successful is ultrasound-guided placement.

We will then run a year long intervention program for doctors and nurses to improve knowledge and skills in identifying patients with difficult IV access and to learn ultrasound-guided cannulation.

Following this, the initial observational study will be repeated looking for an improvement in the number of attempts required, the time to achieve successful cannulation, and the overall success of IV cannula insertion.

We expect that our well described and professionally videotaped training module will improve cannulation processes and impact a large number of patients by reducing the number of cannulation attempts.

The study also aims to develop the materials (visual and written) needed such that the USS training program can be replicated at other Australian sites.


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