WEST Australian burns researchers have found that if scald injuries are treated with an early intervention of salvaging tissues within four days, patients heal faster, need less dressing changes, and experience less scarring.
Professor Fiona Wood and her research team at Burns Service Western Australia and Princess Margaret Hospital assessed 13 patients over a 12 month period for the pilot study.
Patients who had suffered from burns of two per cent Total Body Surface Area Burn (TBSAB) or more and who were deemed not to heal within 10 days were considered for the study and treated by one of three randomly selected treatments.
The study found that regardless of treatment type, early intervention was associated with a decreased time heal with fewer dressing changes, less pain and better scar outcomes.
Prof Wood has now received substantial funding from the Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation that will allow her to take her work to the next level.
“Since I started as a medical student I’ve always been involved in research in one way or another. It’s part of my mindset. And certainly in the Burns Service of Western Australia and in the Burn Injury Research Unit, we have a very strong research ethos that’s focussed on clinical problems. “
“Solutions to clinical problems improve quality of care and so in doing that we bring together three teams, the clinical research team, the basic science research team and the population health research team.”
“The specific area [in the future] that I will drive hands-on is around how the brain and nervous system changes with injury. I have spent a lot of time on the fringes putting together four pieces of a jigsaw puzzle with various students around the impact of the injury on the brain and nervous system.”
The Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation is making funds available that allow Prof Wood to dedicate half of her time to research.
“It will take the whole team to a different level. It gives me more time to supervise much more intensely but it also gives me the opportunity to get my hands dirty again with research as well,” says Prof Wood.
In addition to her busy schedule, Prof Wood is giving time to mentor high school students during National Science Week at a Science Café and be part of a panel discussion on the impact of fire on people, animals and the environment.
“We need to really encourage our youngsters to get out in the area so our youngsters think that a career in science isn’t a bad idea. If I can inspire one kid here and there, then that’s awesome because that will make a difference to lives down the track. We need science in this area and if I can put my shoulder to the wheel to make people understand how interesting and exciting it is then all well and good.”
Professor Fiona Wood grabbed the world’s attention as Head of Royal Perth Hospital’s Burns Unit when she co-ordinated a medical team treating victims of the Bali Bombings and has been involved in research for over 20 years.