A new research project is underway in the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s (RMH) Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and ward 6SE (cardiothoracic) to investigate the ways in which cardiac surgery patients wake up from their anaesthetics in ICU.

Staff members from ICU and 6SE
Staff members from ICU and 6SE

The research is in partnership with the Melbourne Private Hospital ICU and ward Level 5 (cardiothoracic) – and will follow around 100 patients from both hospitals, who have undergone cardiac surgery.

The research is hoped to better understand the impact the process of waking up from their anaesthetic has on the patient’s recovery after cardiac surgery.

So far there is no medical research which looks at this topic – but anecdotally reports from ICU doctors and nurses suggest that if the waking up process is not calm and smooth, physical complications may occur that require additional treatment.

ICU Clinical Nurse Specialist and principal investigator of the study, Meredith Heily said the research will be an opportunity to have conclusive data to analyse.

“All the information is currently anecdotal or individual reports, the waking up process in ICU after cardiac surgery has not previously been studied or researched,” Meredith said.

The research is also in collaboration with physiotherapists who will help test the physical recovery of the patients. Cardiac surgery ward nurses will also be looking at the patient’s overall recovery. Assessments, including if the way in which a patient wakes up from their anaesthetic is associated with aspects such as postoperative pain, complications, wound healing and cognition changes such as delirium.

The other advantage of the project is to allow more nurse-led medical research.

“It can be hard to get nurse led research publicised and funded, so this is an opportunity to show this research can be incredibly beneficial,” Meredith said.

The funding for this project is being used to train and pay fourteen ICU and cardiothoracic clinical nurses to be research assistants for the project.

It is hoped the outcomes from the project will steer development of evidence-based guidelines to manage anaesthetic emergence in the ICU.

The research is partly funded by the 2020 Lynly and Yvonne Aitken Scholarship and the Margaret Robertson Legacy.

Mobile Stroke Unit with Ambulance Victoria paramedic and the RMH Stroke team
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