Funding for new research projects set to improve outcomes in stroke and brain injury

Funding for new research projects set to improve outcomes in stroke and brain injury

Two George Institute research projects have been successful in the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies funding round.

Professor Craig Anderson, Director, Global Brain Health at The George Institute and Conjoint Professor, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW and his team will analyse the effectiveness of a particular ‘clot-busting’ drug in 4,000 patients with presumed acute ischaemic stroke. 

Stroke is a critical illness, the second leading cause of death, and the third leading cause of disability, with its prevalence increasing in ageing populations, worldwide. Most strokes are ‘ischaemic’ resulting from the blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. Opening up blocked blood vessels with intravenous thrombolysis is a proven treatment for this type of stroke, but there are still knowledge gaps over the balance of benefits and risks of this treatment in certain types of patients. 

“Our study will solve important outstanding questions to define which patients have the most to gain with the lowest risk of bleeding from using modern ‘clot-busting’ thrombolysis treatment for acute ischaemic stroke due to a blocked blood vessel in the brain.”

While speed of treatment reduces risks and increases the chance of good outcome, it requires organised systems of care, an experienced team, and ultimately confidence in treatment for the attending clinician.

“This is the first adaptive platform trial in acute stroke that will allow important clinical questions to be addressed for patients in different regions of the world, both low- and middle-income as well as high-income, to improve their chances of recovery from this common and serious illness,” Prof Anderson added.

Associate Professor Anthony Delaney, Professorial Fellow in the Critical Care Program at The George Institute, A/Prof Faculty of Medicine, UNSW, and Senior Intensive Care Specialist at Royal North Shore Hospital, and his team will conduct a clinical trial to assess whether giving antibiotics to people with severe brain injury who require assistance with their breathing in intensive care will improve outcomes.

Patients with severe acute brain injury who require treatments to support their breathing in an intensive care unit are at high risk of developing a lung infection. Those that do develop lung infections have a higher risk of dying and may not recover as well as they could from the brain injury. 

“Our trial will determine if giving antibiotics early in the course of the ICU treatment can prevent these infections and increase the chance of surviving and improve the recovery of brain function’” he said.

The team will use a new tool to measure how well people with severe brain injury recover that was developed specifically by patients to measure a variety of brain functions that are not normally measured by the tools that have been used traditionally.

“For patients who survive a severe acute brain injury, limiting further brain damage by preventing infection may avoid the need for decades of care, improve quality of life and allow people to return to the workforce, as well as reducing healthcare costs,” he added.