Ben Thurston (far left) with other winners at Research Day.

We are excited to give you an update on clinical trainee Ben Thurston, who last year won the prize for best clinical trainee presentation at the annual Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI) Research Day. The funding Ben received was able to assist his research on patients who are at a greater risk of poor outcomes following elective endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR), a type of surgery used to treat a widened area of the aorta (the body’s main artery).

Ben and his team have been able to identify that patients who have low muscle mass are at increased risk of death following this type of surgery.

“When I first won the award at the BHI Research Day our hope was to be able to establish whether we could identify patients who are at an increased risk of dying within a short period after an aneurysm repair. We have been able to identify that patients with a low muscle mass are more likely to die within three years of EVAR than those with a high muscle mass,” Ben explained.

“It would be very interesting to see whether a targeted nutritional programme can help improve outcomes following EVAR for patients who have low total psoas mass. The psoas muscles are two large muscles found in your lower back that are the primary connectors between your torso (central part of your body) and leg.

“I feel our research is aimed at highlighting patients who are very frail prior to EVAR.  Given that EVAR is mainly a procedure aimed at reducing long term risk, some patients are less likely to survive into the long term for reasons other than their aortic aneurysm (a bulge in the aorta) and we should therefore question whether we should put these patients through a big operation.

Ben and his team believe that their research enables doctors to have a conversation pre-surgery with patients and their families to help them to make a decision best suited to them.

“The ultimate aim is to develop a calculator that clinicians can use when seeing a patient that enables them to accurately determine an individualised risk of EVAR. This will hopefully help guide treatment options better and enable truly informed consent prior to surgery,” Ben said.

“We have completed analysis with a group of patients and have submitted this work for publication, which is really exciting for my research career.  Future directions would involve finding another population to further validate our research before it can be used to guide patient care.”

Ben and his team aim to look at whether total psoas area is even more relevant in elderly people or those with previous heart problems.

“The BHI Research Day is a fantastic experience with many different researchers presenting fascinating work from a variety of areas. I felt very privileged to have been selected from such a strong field and would like to thank all those who organised, attended, judged and supported the day. In particular a big thanks to the Hospital Research Foundation and their kind community for their very generous support of the day.”


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