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World-first falls study wins Shark Tank award at research symposium

Researchers from St John of God Murdoch Hospital who are investigating patient falls after major joint replacement surgery recently earned equal first prize at the Shark Tank award at the Catholic Health Australia Research Symposium in Brisbane.

St John of God Health Care falls research award

Led by Nurse Researcher Dr Gail Ross-Adjie from St John of God Murdoch Hospital’s Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Research, the study aims to ascertain, over a 12-month period, the rate of falls, the cost of falls and the quality of life and outcomes for people who have major joint replacement surgery.

We know that one in three Australians over the age of 65 will fall in any 12 month period but we don’t know the rates that people experience falls after total hip and total knee replacement,” Dr Ross Adjie said.

“There was some suggestion in the literature that the rate was higher than that of the general population but that research was of poor quality so robust research needed to be undertaken which has led to our world-first study.”

Dr Ross-Adjie is leading a team of co-investigators which includes Professor Leanne Monterosso, the St John of God Murdoch Hospital Chair of Nursing Research, a physiotherapist, a biostatistician, a health economist, a geriatrician and an orthopaedic surgeon to help answer this question.

“This study not only looks at their clinical outcomes but importantly will analyse the cost of falls through Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data, to determine the cost of falls in the 12 months after major joint surgery,” she said.

“We have already discovered that the falls rate in the 12 months after surgery in our study cohort is about 40 per cent so we already know that these patients are falling at a higher rate than the general older population.

“The next step of the research, which includes data analysis, will be to identify factors that may predict falls risks and we can then use that information to develop a risk assessment tool to determine a patients falls risk prior to hospital discharge. This will enable targeted falls prevention strategies to be implemented and evaluated.”

Dr Ross-Adjie earned equal top prize for her presentation on this research at the recent Catholic Health Australia Research Symposium Shark Tank event.

“Amongst high quality research which is being undertaken across Catholic hospitals in Australia it was great to be recognised by our peers as undertaking robust, multi-disciplinary nurse led research which will have real benefit for the many patients who undergo major joint replacement annually,” Dr Ross-Adjie said.

“The research is continuing until 2020 and there will be many other opportunities to progress the research further beyond that so we are excited to continue our work on this study and hopefully help prevent falls for many patients in the future.”

Research key stats

  • 434 patients recruited who have had total hip or knee replacements
  • Every patient followed up via phone monthly for 12 months
  • 47 semi-structured interviews completed with patients 12 months after surgery to determine:
  • Patient perceptions of the cause and consequences of their falls
  • Patient awareness and knowledge about falls and falls prevention
  • Patient motivation to engage in falls prevention activities