A multi-specialist NHS team from the Institute of Neurological Sciences at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital is leading pioneering Europe-wide research that could improve survival rates for people who have suffered brain injuries.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Brain-IT team is comprised of clinicians, scientists and engineers, all dedicated to pursuing new ways of treating patients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. They have now been awarded approximately €2.3 million in funding from the European Commission, allowing them to develop AVERT-IT; a computerised method of predicting and thus averting any deterioration in a patient’s condition.
Brain-IT Group Co-ordinator Ian Piper is from NHSGGC’s Department of Clinical Physics and Bioengineering. Ian said the aim of AVERT-IT is to use sophisticated software to help staff help patients. He said: “Whenever a patient has suffered a traumatic brain injury – a fall, accident or assault – and is in an Intensive Care Unit, he or she is not only cared for by world-class nurses and doctors but is connected to lots of high-tech medical equipment.
”These machines collect reams of data, but clinical staff will only use a certain amount of that to help inform the patient’s day-to-day care. But like virtually every computer application, these machines collect huge amounts of information that isn’t all used. We are trying to find a way to use this information to improve the treatment we can offer patients.
“Our aim is to develop a sophisticated computer software programme known as AVERT-IT that can see far more than the naked eye, and to use this to anticipate when a patient may take a turn for the worse. By finding out if a patient is likely to deteriorate, we can intervene and hopefully avert any adverse incidents.
“Specifically, we’re trying to predict when a patient might suffer hypotension – or a fall in blood pressure – because that’s something this kind of patient is particularly prone to. A fall in blood pressure can then leave the patient more vulnerable to serious subsequent problems.”
NHSGGC’s Brain-IT team have won Framework 7 funding from the EU, which is designed to encourage links between higher education and industry. They will be working with Dingwall-based software company C3-Amulet in order to develop the software, and also with the national eScience Centre based in Glasgow and headed by Professor Richard Sinnott. The basis for the project is data collected over the last seven years in two previous European-funded projects. These projects have seen collaborators from more
than 20 different brain injury centres and universities from throughout Europe gather information from the beside-monitors of traumatic brain injury patients cared for in Intensive Therapy Units. This information is now being used by the Brain-IT team and C3-Amulet as the basis for their research.
C3-Amulet will be working in close co-operation with the Brain-IT team throughout the duration of the AVERT-IT project. C3-Amulet’s Project Exploitation Manager Steve Reeves said: “This is an opportunity for C3 Amulet to build an entirely new business in the life sciences sector. The Framework 7 programme enables clinicians, academics, industry leaders and a Highlands-based SME to combine their expertise in solving major healthcare issues. The resulting technology will improve patient outcomes, reduce healthcare costs across Europe and create a global, high tech business based in Scotland.
“It demonstrates the power of teamwork between the government, the NHS, academia and industry.”
The ultimate goal, if the research project is successful, is to develop a commercial product (supported by Phillips Medical) that could eventually be used by hospitals worldwide in the treatment of patients who have suffered traumatic brain injury.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “This very significant award from the European Commission is excellent news and underlines the international reputation of specialists at the Southern General for pioneering research.
“The AVERT-IT project has very real potential to help brain injury patients at the most critical stage of their treatment, so I would like to congratulate staff on their hard work in securing this funding and wish them every success with this exciting initiative.
“It’s particularly welcome that this award has come following close cooperation between the NHS, higher education and a Scottish-based software firm and the ground-breaking project will see the Brain-IT team leading counterparts from across Europe.”
Professor Richard Sinnott from the Glasgow University-based National eScience Centre said: “The NeSC is involved in a wide range of applications from biomedical and clinical sciences, amongst numerous others. Key to this is sophisticated but user-friendly security measures that allow seamless access to data across a number of different institutions and, indeed, countries.
“In the Avert-IT project we will show how a wide range of brain trauma data can be securely accessed across numerous sites, taking into account the local rules and ethics for each place. We will be collaborating closely with our colleagues in NHSGGC, as well as elsewhere in the UK and throughout Europe."
Professor David Wyper, Deputy Director of the Department of Clinical Physics and Bioengineering in Glasgow, said: “Dr Piper and his collaborators should be congratulated on obtaining this support in such a highly completive setting. It is encouraging that the centre that developed the Glasgow Coma Scale – used for many years around the world to assist in the management of head injury patients – is still at the forefront in this important filed of acute medicine.”
Hospitals and clinics have been taking part from as nearby as Edinburgh and from both within the UK and from other countries. In total, ten European countries have been involved in the research: England, Spain, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, Romania, Lithuania, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland.
Notes to editors:
• Twenty brain injury treatment centres have participated in gathering the data that will inform the research. These include hospitals and specialist clinics in: Barcelona, Cambridge, Edinburgh (adult and paediatric), Glasgow, Gothenburg, Heidelberg, Iasi, Kaunas, Leipzig, Leuven, London, Manheim, Milan, Monza, Newcastle, Novara, Southampton, Turin, Upssala, Vilnius and Zurich.
• For more information on NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Brain-IT group, please see www.brainit.org.
• For more information on the National eScience Centre, please see www.nesc.ac.uk.
For more information or if you would like to interview Ian Piper please contact NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Communications on 0141 201 4429.