Field: Immunology

Location: Prince Charles Hospital 

Type of Student: Volunteer/extra-curricular 

Brief Synopsis: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a life saving device used to treat critically ill patients with severe cardiac and/or respiratory dysfunction. In this critically ill adult cohort, patients are often indicated with greater than 80% risk of mortality and are refractory to conventional managements whose life would be lost without the rescue of ECMO. Such device enables oxygenation of patient blood external to the body, serving as a bridge to organ recovery as well as a bridge to further interventions such as ventricular assist device or heart/lung transplant. However, in spite of the great advantages that ECMO offers, patient mortality rate and the frequency of deleterious complications (e.g. SIRS, sepsis, and multi-organ dysfunction development) remains unacceptably high. These undesirable clinical outcomes have been proposed as a consequence of immune perturbation mediated by the contact of patient blood cells with the foreign surface of ECMO. While numerous clinical and laboratory studies associated changes in the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory response (cytokines and chemokines) with ECMO, there are limited studies reporting on the effect of ECMO on leukocytes (white blood cells) in adults. Leukocytes are central to the innate and adaptive immunity and are key blood cells to the regulation and stimulation of the complex inflammatory reactions protecting us from illnesses. Therefore, at the CCRG we are interested in determining and characterising the impact of ECMO on leukocyte fate (numbers) and responses in both clinical and laboratory settings to enhance the current understanding of ECMO immunobiology. 

In particular, through the proposed retrospective study, we aim to identify any potential correlations between any leukocyte subsets with poor patient outcomes. The study also attempts to understand if any of these effects are time-dependent. Any new findings from the retrospective study will feed into the future prospective study, allowing for a closer look of ECMO and its commonly associated treatment factors on patients’ immune system. Students (vacational, volunteers or Honours) will conduct data extraction, collation and/or analysis from both national and international ECMO centres, dependent students’ time frame.

Prerequisite skills: Students with the ability to read clinical charts and lab results to extract and collate relevant data

Timeframe: Start at the beginning of 2019. Time frame to be discussed if interest is expressed



Dr Katrina Ki

Postdoctoral Research Officer & Critical Care Research Officer
Prince Charles Hospital Northside Clinical Unit