A study of small blood vessel circulation in critically unwell patients

Evaluating microcirculation with regards to how sick a patient is and whether or not they recover from illness.

Grant ID: PROJ-2009-012-LUKIN-MICRO

Lay Summary

Microcirculation refers to very small blood vessels that control oxygen and nutrient delivery and removal of waste products from our tissues and organs. Previous research has shown that a decrease in either the number of vessels, or blood flow through these vessels, can be seen in patients who are very sick as a result of infections, blood loss or heart failure.

Changes in microcirculation are associated with how sick a patient is and whether or not they recover from illness. However, only small numbers have been included in other studies. Therefore, we wish to investigate if; a) these changes are present in a large group of unwell patients; b) how this compares with routine observations; c) whether there is improvement in the microcirculation within the first 24hours; and d) if there is a relationship with the patient’s outcome.

Historically, there have been very few useful tools available to assess the microcirculation at the bed-side. However, recent advances in technology have allowed us to directly see the microcirculation using a video camera that is placed under the tongue. A real-time image is then obtained of red-blood cells flowing in these small vessels. We will use this video camera on patients with severe 1) infection, 2) heart problems, and 3) bleeding, and assess whether the changes in microcirculation are similar to other variables measured in the emergency department and the patient’s outcome.


The study is the first step in revolutionising the way we treat seriously ill patients. Emergency doctors can look at a patient’s microcirculation and will have instant information about how sick a patient is likely to become. This will allow them to start earlier treatment. Further, doctors can tailor their treatment efforts to improve microcirculatory function which, in turn, may reduce the number of patients who die from serious illness.

Leveraged Funds

- $20,000 from RBWH


Amount Awarded


Grant Scheme


Principal Investigator:
Dr Bill Lukin

Co Investigators:
Dr Catherine Hurn
Dr Anthony Holley
Dr Jaimi Greenslade
Prof Jeffrey Lipman
Dr Jennifer Paratz
Dr Andrew Udy
A/Prof Robert Boots
Dr Kevin Chu

Associate Investigators:
A/Prof Robert Boots


Collaborating Institutions

CONTACT US +61 7 3720 5700 info@emfoundation.org.au Suite 1B, Terraces, 19 Lang Parade, Milton Qld 4064