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Appeal Funds Boost Brain Injury Research

Appeal Funds Boost Brain Injury Research

New Zealand doctors are taking part in ground-breaking brain injury research funded by money raised in last year's Intensive Care Appeal.

The study, known as the Decompressive Craniectomy (DECRA) trial, is investigating whether temporarily removing part of the skull during brain swelling can improve a patient's recovery following a severe head injury received in an accident.

The procedure involves removing part of the skull under general anaesthetic to give the patient's brain room to swell without cutting off the oxygen and fluid supply. The section of bone is stored frozen and replaced without visible scarring, once the swelling subsides.

The three-year study by Australian and New Zealand doctors aims to compare this early surgical procedure to more traditional methods of managing severe head injury.

Wellington Hospital has already joined the trial, which is being led by Australia's busiest trauma centre, Melbourne's Alfred Hospital. Auckland Hospital is also likely to take part and Christchurch Hospital is keen to follow.

Thirteen Australian hospitals are currently involved

The DECRA trial is being funded in part by money raised in the annual Appeal run by the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Foundation (ANZICF). Last year, around $50,000 dollars was raised in New Zealand.

"A trauma research project as important as the DECRA trial could prove a breakthrough in helping people with serious head injuries regain quality of life," says Dr Nigel Rankin, Middlemore Hospital Intensive Care doctor and ANZICF board member.

"Australia and New Zealand intensive care doctors are world renowned for establishing a centrally coordinated approach to research and shared findings - and much of this is owed to the generosity of supporters of the annual Intensive Care Appeal," he says.

Funds raised each year are targeted at research in four main areas of Intensive Care - lung and brain injury, infection and overall prevention.

Eighty five percent of Intensive Care patients survive, but doctors believe even more lives could be saved with additional research and practice guidelines. ANZICF predicts as many as 3000 people a year in Australia and New Zealand.

The 2004 New Zealand Intensive Care appeal runs from 10 - 23 May.

Donations can be made via the 0900 donation line (0900 707 707) or on-line at . Colourful $2 Life Supporter hospital wristbands can also be bought from Unichem and Dispensary First Pharmacies during the Appeal.

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