Researcher wins grant to probe spinal complications

20 December, 2012

A researcher from The University of Western Australia has won a $100,000 grant from WA's Raine Medical Research Foundation to investigate rates and predictors of complications in spinal surgery.

Professor Markus Melloh, from the UWA-affiliated Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR) was awarded one of seven foundation Priming Grants for UWA research totalling $726,000 for 2013-2014.
The orthopaedic surgeon and rheumatologist hopes his research for WAIMR's Epidemiology Group will provide comprehensive data on spinal complications following spinal surgery.
"Currently, there is only limited evidence about what people face when they undergo spinal fusion surgery or disc replacement," Professor Melloh said.

"The problem is that most databases are very limited in size and don't give a lot of information about the safety and risks.
"We're looking at complication rates for specific spinal procedures, and we're looking at predictors and what will make it more likely someone will have complications.

"We're also looking at the downstream consequences and what it will mean for patients if they have spinal complications, including what can they expect in terms of going back to work and getting on with their lives.
"This information will improve the shared decision-making process between clinician and patient."
Professor Melloh said there had been significant research into complications following joint replacement surgery in recent decades but insufficient evidence about spinal surgery complications.
"We understand the risks for hip or knee replacements," he said.

"As clinicians we should be able to provide our patients with the same data for the spine."

"The most intriguing thing will be to find out what complications matter for the long-term, which is something a patient has to consider," Professor Melloh said.
"They ask about whether their pain will go or if their disability will continue to prevent them from bending down to tie their shoe laces. We're hoping to be more specific with what we can provide our patients so they can be better prepared.
"This project is a world-first approach and will analyse data from the International Spine Registry - Spine Tango - which includes more than 50,000 datasets."
Spine Tango is a Spine Society of Europe not-for-profit global endeavour managed by Switzerland's University of Berne. Professor Melloh was the Registry's founding International Coordinator 2005-2007.
"We're confident this large database will enable us to offer the best possible advice to patients according to principles of evidence-based medicine," Professor Melloh said.
The Raine Medical Research Foundation was established in 1957 by Mary Raine, who bequeathed her property empire to UWA to fund medical research.
The Foundation supports major research projects and has funded two Centres of Excellence, established fellowships and scholarships, sponsored visits by international scholars, participated in major joint ventures and fostered medical research at undergraduate level.
Raine Priming Grants are awarded to medical research scientists at an early stage in their career and provide funding for research into the nature, origin and cause of human disease; and the prevention, cure, alleviation and treatment of disease.