World-first Research Worth Bottling

Department of Defence

ADF medical researchers are leading a world-first study to better understand when critically ill patients need a platelet transfusion.

The team recently secured a $1.8 million grant from the Medical Research Future Fund to conduct Australian clinical trials in partnership with the UK’s University of Oxford.

Platelets are tiny blood-cell fragments that clump together to stop bleeding and repair damaged blood vessels.

Patients in intensive care, such as those after major trauma, can have low platelet levels, increasing the risk of bleeding.

Platelet transfusions are commonly given to reduce this risk.

Defence researchers aim to find at what level patients should receive a platelet transfusion so the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks, such as allergic reaction or effectiveness preventing bleeding in ICU patients.

The team, led by Major Elissa Milford, brings together specialists from across the ADF, including Brigadier Michael Reade and Lieutenant Commander Andrew Flint, in partnership with organisations including Red Cross Lifeblood, the University of Queensland and Monash University.

The study builds on the decade-long Defence research transfusion program, including another clinical trial testing whether frozen platelets would be effective for use in field hospitals.

“It will improve outcomes for patients and ensure the most effective and efficient use of donated platelets – a scarce and expensive resource,” Major Milford said.

“We’re now seeing a return on investment for Defence supporting our clinicians to undertake PhDs.

“Those of us who’ve graduated are now starting to lead our own research programs and train the next generation of researchers, growing the capability.”

The news comes after personnel attended a NATO summit in February to standardise blood transfusion procedures for resuscitating patients.

“Until now there’s been little agreement between countries on how to transfuse blood – everyone has done their own thing,” Brigadier Reade said.

“It’s a big problem if we’re all going to fight together.”

Brigadier Reade, Professor of Military Medicine and Surgery at Joint Health Command and at the University of Queensland, said Defence clinical research positioned Australia as a leader in the field.

“It gives us credibility and a seat at the table, allowing us to influence policy to [our] best advantage,” he said.

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