New study to look at improving recovery from surgery

A hidden pandemic of complications after surgery is occurring in Australia and around the world. Lung complications are one of the most important types of complications after surgery and are associated with increased risk of death.

A surgeon wearing a face mask, gown, gloves and a hair cap, looks closely at a lung x-ray image.

The goal of the study is to reduce the burden of post-surgical lung complications.

But a group from the University of Melbourne has received funding to test whether a newer muscle relaxant reversal drug can help reduce the number of post-surgical lung complications.

A 3,500-patient randomised controlled trial exploring reversal of muscle relaxant drugs after general anaesthesia has received $2.9 million in funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The study, to be known as the SNaPP Study (Sugammadex, Neostigmine and Postoperative Pulmonary complications), will be run over four years by the Department of Critical Care, Melbourne Medical School, University of Melbourne, and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists’ (ANZCA) Clinical Trials Network (CTN).

The study’s Principal Investigator, Professor Kate Leslie AO, said the goal of the study is to reduce the burden of these complications.

“These complications lead to prolonged illness and decreased quality of life for patients and increased costs for the healthcare system,” she said.

“Our team has a long history of successfully completing large perioperative trials and with the SNaPP Study we will once again join forces with investigators and trial coordinators in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong to answer one of the most hotly debated questions in our specialty.”

The SNaPP Study will recruit adult patients presenting for abdominal or thoracic surgery.

They will receive a general anaesthetic for their surgery that includes muscle relaxant drugs.

At the end of their surgery, they will receive either neostigmine (the traditional drug) or sugammadex (a new drug which is more reliable but also more expensive) to reverse the muscle relaxant.

The patients will be followed up for lung complications (e.g., pneumonia) and quality of life. This information, along with health expenditure data, will be used to determine if sugammadex is cost-effective. The results of this study will have immediate benefits for patients and the healthcare system.

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Annie Rahilly

+61 432 758 734