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Overview - Anaesthetics Research

The Women’s Department of Anaesthesia has a long history of research, teaching, education and innovation.

Founded in 1951 by Dr Kevin McCaul, it was the first obstetric anaesthesia department in Australia. The department has an active research program concentrating on world first research in the area of heart function in pregnant women with preeclampsia using transthoracic echocardiography (TTE). The ROSE scan – the Rapid Obstetric Screening Scan – has been developed to rapidly assess a sick pregnant woman’s heart function to assist with diagnosis and treatment.

The department also undertakes randomised controlled trials, is involved in multicentre collaborative research projects and performs prospective observational studies in heart function in healthy and sick pregnant women. It contributes to the scientific literature through case reports and authoring of book chapters for specialized textbooks in obstetric anaesthesia, is involved in the authoring of systemic reviews for the Cochrane Collaboration of evidence-based medicine and also supervises anaesthetic trainees to achieve their formal research projects in anaesthesia. 

Our research in anaesthesia for gynaecological surgery encompasses examination of alternative airway devices in women undergoing laparoscopy, and pharmacological studies investigating local anaesthetic blood levels, and the pharmacogenomic aspects of analgesic agents.

The department collaborates internationally with the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital (Professor Robert Dyer, Professor Justiaan Swanevelder with A/Prof Dennis) and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, United Kingdom. The department also collaborates with the University of Melbourne, The University of Western Sydney, the National Health and Medical Research Council National Baboon Colony, the Royal Children’s Hospital, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and The Mercy Hospital for Women.

Many of the department staff are invited speakers at national and international conferences. Staff within the department are involved in chairing and organising sessions for major international meetings as well as facilitating problem-based learning discussions and practical workshops. 

A/Prof Alicia Dennis, the Director of Anaesthesia Research, was awarded a four year NHMRC Fellowship in 2015 for her work to understand haemodynamics and the cardiovascular system in women with preeclampsia. She is the most recent past Chair of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, Australian Society of Anaesthetists, and the New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists (Obstetric Anaesthesia Special Interest Group) which maintains links with the major obstetric anaesthesia bodies throughout the world including the Obstetric Anaesthetists Association (UK) and the Society of Obstetric Anesthesiology and Perinatology (USA). Dr James Griffiths is an executive member of the Obstetric Anaesthesia Special Interest Group.

Dr Phil Popham is a principal editor for the major international obstetric anaesthesia journal, the International Journal of Obstetric Anaesthesia, with A/Prof Alicia Dennis and Dr James Griffiths members of the editorial board. A/Prof Dennis is a member of the International advisory panel for the journal Anaesthesia and an editorial board member for the journal Obstetric Anesthesia Digest. Many of the department staff have editorial commitments to numerous anaesthesia journals.