Orthopaedic team leads the way in nationwide research trial

The Mackay Base Hospital has been the first of 32 sites to commence a nationwide trial looking into outcomes for elderly patients presenting with wrist fractures.

The hospital’s orthopaedic team was approached by Whitlam Orthopaedic Research Centre and UNSW last year to take part in the study called CROSSFIRE.

CROSSFIRE is one of the first studies to be supported locally by the Mackay Institute of Research and Innovation (MIRI) and is an example of why research support and coordination is instrumental.

“With MIRI’s help we were actually able to be the first hospital to get approval across Australia,” said Principal Investigator for Mackay, Dr Herwig Drobetz, Director of Orthopaedics and Trauma at Mackay HHS.

“MIRI’s support helps us make significant studies like CROSSFIRE happen – studies with real potential to make a difference for our patients.”

Dr Drobetz also sees taking part in ground-breaking research as an important way to engage his orthopaedic protégés. He believes it will enhance their curiosity to learn, and inspire them by being part of a study with the potential to change clinical practice.

The cohort of junior orthopods, including Dr Marcus Simonian (pictured), is involved in the trial from beginning to end with oversight from Dr Drobetz.

The trial will determine whether surgery or a plaster cast has better outcomes for patients over the age of 65 with wrist fractures.

“Half of the trial participants will undergo volar locking plate fixation and the other half will have closed reduction and cast immobilisation,” Dr Drobetz said.

“Participants will be followed up at regular intervals both in person by the study surgeons and over the telephone by blinded researchers for a period up to ten years post-injury.

“Patients who do not consent to be randomised will be offered participation in the observational arm of the study. Their treatment will consist of either closed reduction and cast immobilisation or operative fixation using a volar locking plate.”

Mackay is leading the way having recruited the first and third patients to take part in the trial.

Lorna Walker, 76, is the third patient to be signed up to the research project.

Mrs Walker had a fall at her Andergrove home last Monday and broke her wrist.

“I was hanging curtains and I couldn’t reach the top so I stood on a chair and I don’t know if I fell off or the chair threw me,” she laughed.

“Fortunately my husband was home and was able to call the ambulance,” she said.

Mrs Walker said she didn’t hesitate to join the research project when she was asked.

“These things have to be done. How else will they find out the best way to treat people if they don’t get the patients involved?” she said.

She returned to hospital last week to have the fracture plated and screwed.

Mrs Walker is a big fan of Dr Simonian, the orthopaedic registrar who recruited her to the trial. She said he was one of many people who had looked after her beautifully.

“It makes such as difference when you’re hurt to have people who are caring,” she said.

Her arm will be reviewed in two, three and six months’ time.

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