Deborah J. CookResearch Transfer in Intensive Care
Faculty of Health Sciences
Department of Medicine
MCMASTER EXPERTS PROFILE
Translating research into medical practice in Intensive Care Units.
For patients in Intensive Care Units all across the country, there’s fresh new hope. Deborah Cook’s study of how to improve the medical profession’s application of new knowledge could save lives. And it’s all based on keeping a patient’s chin up. Literally.
The McMaster University professor is concentrating her research on a critical and often neglected area of study: how to translate new discoveries into effective clinical practice. Cook is focusing on studies that have discovered there is a practical, non-invasive way to reduce the risk of pneumonia in critically ill patients who are hooked up to ventilators in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals.
Statistics indicate that between 10% and 50% of all patients on mechanical ventilators develop pneumonia. The infection prolongs their time in hospital and increases their risk of dying. But studies have shown that if patients are elevated, by raising the head of the bed to a 45-degree angle, their risk of contracting this type of pneumonia drops drastically. All due to a simple re-positioning-from lying flat to sitting up. In fact, for every four patients repositioned this way, one case of pneumonia is prevented.
Given the simplicity of the procedure, it should be applied in every ICU unit in Canada. But that’s not always the case. Cook’s study has demonstrated that caregivers in ICUs have not adopted the procedure. In addition, her research will use ventilator-associated pneumonia as a model to study ways to spread information quickly and to transfer research into best medical practice. It will also highlight an important lesson to the medical and research communities: that research that has practical applications must be applied so that the discoveries can have any meaning and effect on quality of life. The long-range, big picture? Cook’s results can be applied to a variety of illnesses and to new ways to treat or prevent them.
Cook was the first intensive-care specialist in Canada who is also educated in biostatistics and clinical epidemiology (the causes, distribution, and control of diseases in populations). The benefits have been numerous. Her combined specialties make her an ideal choice for this project with its cross-disciplinary connections.