Can you imagine ending up in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and when you are discharged your strength has deteriorated and your body is weaker than ever before?

Around 130,000 Australians are admitted into ICU each year with many experiencing acute and rapid muscle loss as a result. A recent Translational Grant from The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF) is now supporting researchers at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Professor Marianne Chapman, Dr Adam Deane and Dr Paul Young to change this outcome for Australians.

Armed with $250,000, the team will be kick-starting a randomised controlled trial to determine the ideal dose of protein patients may require to reduce muscle loss during critical illness in ICU and improve patients’ quality of life when returning home.

“In the worst cases, it can take patients up to two years to return back to their previous level of fitness and function after an admission into ICU. This research is trying to stop that muscle and weight loss so patients can get back on their feet again and quicker,” Prof Chapman said.

Higher protein doses can also improve other complications patients may experience as a result of an ICU admission. For example, a breathing machine can cause 20 per cent of patients to develop pneumonia after being in ICU.

“We think keeping up the body’s condition with protein and nutrition can also strengthen people’s immune function to prevent infections, which will be another great outcome for patients in this trial,” Prof Chapman explained.

The THRF grant will enable Prof Chapman and her team to complete a preliminary study of approximately 120 patients, gathering initial data needed for them to complete a national study of around 4000 patients.

“The participating patients in this study will be from various hospitals around South Australia, including the RAH, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Lyell McEwin Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre,” Prof Chapman said.

“We will then test different doses of protein safely and effectively for patients in ICU to determine the appropriate protein dose to provide patients that will be effective and reduce muscle loss.”

In her role as an ICU specialist, Prof Chapman has over 20 years’ experience working within the Unit and has seen patients return home after ICU very thin and weak and is determined to change the outcome for people in the future.

“Australia is currently leading research in intensive care and it’s something to be really proud of,” Prof Chapman said.

“We’ve created a very successful network of collaborators in Australia and globally. I’m in this field as I believe I can help a lot of people and the grant from THRF has enabled us to get one step closer to improving the lives of those who end up in ICU. Thank you.”

We look forward to updating you on the progress Prof Chapman and her team makes in this trial.

Prof Chapman is part of the University of Adelaide’s Centre of Research Excellence in Translating Nutritional Science to Good Health, which THRF also proudly supports.

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