Research at EMHS

Image of the EMHS's Research logoEast Metropolitan Health Service (EMHS) is proud to be a centre of excellence for medical research and evidence-based clinical practice.

Through the legacy of Royal Perth Hospital (RPH), we have a long and distinguished history of research and innovation.

We actively encourage a culture of medical and scientific research throughout our hospitals and health services. Research into the causes, treatment and prevention of disease is fundamental to providing a high standard of health care.

Our investigations aim to bridge the gap between laboratory and clinical practice, and ultimately lead to more effective prevention programs, treatments and cures to improve the health status of Western Australians.

EMHS has a long-standing association with the Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation (MRF). The MRF is a major provider of research funding for EMHS. Its laboratory facilities on the RPH site provide infrastructure for clinical research programs.

Research videos

EMHS has produced a video series highlighting the amazing work being done by our researchers.

History of research at EMHS

RPH, the oldest entity of EMHS, has a long history of research and innovation. In the late 1890s an engineer named William John Hancock, who was working with the Western Australia postal service, ordered an X-ray machine from London and arranged for its installation at the hospital. The X-ray (‘Roentgen tube’) had only recently been developed by Professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen in 1895, and the then Perth Public Hospital was the first in Australia to use this new technology. By 1905 the radiotherapy unit was treating 70 patients a year for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Hancock started a legacy of research and innovation, according to G.C. Bolton and P. Joske in their History of Royal Perth Hospital (1982). Hancock was perhaps the most striking example of the new breed of scientifically trained young men who were beginning to challenge and upgrade acceptable professional standards in Western Australia.

In 1929 Dr Bruce Hunt was instrumental in setting up a diabetic clinic with an emphasis on providing dietary advice. Despite the belt-tightening years of the Depression, the expensive-to-run radiology department maintained its normal level of activity. In the 1930s, as typhoid and diptheria became less of a burden to public health, cancer emerged as the greatest health concern. In 1934 a mobile X-ray unit was obtained and a deep therapy unit four years later. “In this respect the clients of the Perth Hospital were probably on equal terms with patient at any hospital in Australia."

Some of RPH’s research achievements have gone into the annals of medical history worldwide.

Heliobacter pylori and stomach ulcers

In 1979 anatomical pathologist Dr Robin Warren described the heliobacter pylori and in the following years Dr Barry Marshall and colleagues conducted research that revealed the causal link between this bacterial infection and peptic ulcers. The work of Warren and Marshall earned them a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005.

Virus particles in patients with HIV infection

Dr John Armstrong and Mr Robert Home of the RPH Department of Anatomical Pathology were the first to demonstrate the presence of virus particles in patients with HIV infection using electron microscopy.

Perth community stroke study

This was the first longitudinal stroke survivor research project, conducted in 1989-1990.

Bone marrow transplant service

The first Domiciliary Bone Marrow Transplant Service was established at RPH in 1994.

Research news

Managing medication for people living with dementia

People with dementia often have coexisting health conditions that require medication.

The Medication Appropriateness Tool for Comorbid Health Conditions in Dementia (MATCH-D) study aims to determine to what extent improved medication management produces better health and functional outcomes for people with dementia.

Led by RPH’s Associate Professor Chris Etherton-Beer, the study is supported by a $586,000 grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Learn more about the MATCH-D study.

Treating low blood pressure in sepsis patients

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by the body’s response to an infection. When low blood pressure occurs in a sepsis patient the risk of organ failure is increased.

A team led by Royal Perth Hospital Emergency Medicine Consultant Dr Stephen MacDonald is trialing a treatment called Restricted Fluid Resuscitation in Sepsis-associated Hypotension (REFRESH).

The trial uses rapid intravenous fluids to treat hypotension rather than the more traditional vasopressor medications.

The results will be used to inform a large-scale international clinical trial.

Research projects

A significant number of research projects are underway across all EMHS sites and services, as part of our commitment to research and innovation that translates into evidence-based practices and excellent patient outcomes.

The below list provides a snapshot of research projects that have commenced through 2017 and into 2018. It demonstrates the broad range of research conducted across our health service, including basic science, public health research and clinical research, all of which aims to improve the treatment of our patients and the effectiveness of our services.

Current projects

Restoration of the microbiome in critical illness: the ROCIT trial
Dr Andrew Chapman, Intensive Care Unit, RPH

A cohort study of otitis media in young urban Aboriginal children – prevalence, risk factors and consequences
A/Professor Peter Richmond, General Paediatric Medicine, AHS

PIANOFORTE - Prosthetic joint infection in Australia and New Zealand: comparing different antibiotic strategies in a randomised trial evaluation
A/Professor Owen Robinson, Infectious Diseases, RPH

A tailored music therapy and real-time biofeedback mobile phone app ('GotRhythm') to promote rehabilitation following stroke
A/Professor Christopher Etherton-Beer, Geriatric Medicine, BHS

Breast origin cancer tissue donated after death: The NBCF repository of primary tumours and metastases from breast cancer patients
Professor Christobel Saunders, Breast Assessment and Surgery Medicine, RPH

Evaluation of the technique of freehand ultrasound guided targeted transperineal biopsy of the prostate to confirm lesions suspicious of cancer identified by multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging of the prostate
Dr Joel Lim, Radiology, RPH

Incidence and clinical outcomes of Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy in Western Australia
Professor Carl Schultz, Cardiology, RPH

Clinical outcomes, safety and incremental cost effectiveness of multi-level airway surgery in patients with moderate-severe Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) who have failed medical management
Dr Richard Lewis, Ear Nose and Throat, RPH

Assessing the health, economic and wellbeing benefits of Homeless Healthcare services in hospital, primary care and community settings
Dr Amanda Stafford, Emergency Department, RPH

Improving the hospital discharge process to minimise patient readmission: a partnership with consumers
Mrs Kelly-Ann Hahn, Management and Administration, RPH

Australian Genomics Health Alliance: Preparing Australia for genomic medicine
Professor Phillipa Lamont, Neurology, RPH

The relationship between scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and a Functional Kitchen Screen for people who may have early dementia
Mrs Nicola Broun, Occupational Therapy, RPH and BHS

A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to assess the effects of Bempedoic Acid (ETC-1002) on the occurrence of major cardiovascular events in patients with, or at high risk for cardiovascular disease who are Statin intolerant
Professor Carl Schultz, Cardiology, RPH

Obesity and chronic pain management
Professor Stephan Schug, Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, RPH

Trial of the effectiveness of expiratory muscle strength training (EMST) device to help dysphagia in people with Inclusion Body Myositis
Mrs Gemma Pattison, Speech Pathology, RPH

Development and validation of a novel, wearable continuous ECG monitor for automated detection of atrial fibrillation
Professor Markus Schlaich, Cardiology, RPH

Enhancing rehabilitation services for Aboriginal Australians after brain injury
A/Professor Christopher Etherton-Beer, Geriatric Medicine, RPH, BHS and AHS

Management of high bleeding risk patients post bioresorbable polymer coated stent implantation with an abbreviated versus prolonged DAPT regimen
Professor Carl Schultz, Cardiology, RPH

Ultra sensitive non-invasive monitoring of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and Myelodysplastic Syndrome
Professor Michael Leahy, Haematology, RPH

Single Troponin accelerated triage of chest pain study
Dr Cara Winnall, Cardiology, RPH

Multicentre survey of patients with treatment resistant hypertension
Professor Markus Schlaich, Cardiology, RPH

A prospective study of the association of peri-operative fasting practices and post-operative complications and length of stay
Ms Courtney Turner, Dietetics and Nutrition, RPH

Western Australian pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV implementation trial
Dr Christine Dykstra, Infectious Diseases, RPH

A retrospective analysis of the utility of cervical spine MRI in trauma patients with normal CT scans or plain radiographs
Dr Swithin Song, Radiology, RPH

A comparison of the number of screws for fixation of skeletal anchorage devices in orthodontics and their failure rates
Dr David Thean, Service Registrar - OMS, RPH

The epidemiology of major trauma patients attended by ambulance paramedics in Perth, Western Australia
Professor Daniel Fatovich, Emergency Department, RPH

Surgical Pleth Index as a predictive tool for postoperative pain: validation of a cut-off value and investigation of the influence of age
Professor Thomas Ledowski and Dr Jan Hruby, Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine Surgical Services, RPH and AHS

Switching Australian patients with moderate to severe IBD, in stable clinical remission from originator infliximab to biosimilar Inflectra, an open label, parallel cohort study
Dr Sherman Picardo, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, RPH

Monitoring mental health in Junior Medical Officers (JMOs) and the effects of engagement with support programs provided through a dedicated JMO Wellbeing Project
Dr Richard Read, Pastoral Care, RPH

Phenotypic and molecular characterisation of brain tumours
Dr Jason Dyke, PathWest - Neuropathology, RPH

Human Research Ethics and Governance

EMHS has a centralised area-wide Research Ethics and Governance (REG) Unit based at RPH. The aim of the centralised REG unit is to improve the efficiency and quality of ethical and governance reviews, especially for multi-site projects and clinical trials, and to support local clinical researchers to understand and meet their regulatory obligations.

Find out more about Human Research Ethics and Governance.