A world-first clinical trial into the body’s response in patients with an acute spinal injury is currently underway at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Spinal Unit.
University of Queensland researchers are using experimental treatment to see the efficacy in improving recovery by balancing the patient’s inflammatory response.
Associate Professor Marc Ruitenberg from UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences believes basic clinical information routinely collected as part of standard care can predict outcomes for individual patients with acute spinal cord injuries.
“We’ve known for a long time that all trauma patients including those with a spinal cord injury, have a systemic inflammatory response after their accident involving white blood cells.
“However, what wasn’t known was whether there were any clues as to how well an individual might recover hidden in the injury response.
“By using routine data collected as part of standard care we have now found ways to better predict outcomes by integrating the white blood cell response with a range of other patient-specific variables.”
A clinical data analysis of over 200 patients from the PA Hospital found acute lymphopenia – a condition in which there is a lower-than-normal number of white blood cells known as lymphocytes in the blood – was typically associated with better recovery in patients with isolated spinal cord injuries.
The research also determined that acute neutrophilia, an overabundance of the most common white blood cell, was a negative predictor of trauma outcomes.
PA Hospital Director of Spinal Injuries Unit, Dr Sridhar Atresh, said the potential for informing clinical management and decision-making was a key to the success of the study.
“As the state’s tertiary rehabilitation facility for spinal injuries, we have the potential to be at the forefront of medical advancements in spinal injury care and these partnerships with researchers are a tremendous benefit for our patients.
“The results from this clinical trial and the approach to balancing inflammatory response will help us provide tailored and personalised treatment to patients with acute spinal injuries which may be the key to a better outcome,” he said.
It is estimated more than 15,000 Australians live with spinal cord injury, a neurological condition for which there is currently no cure.