Professor Margo Pritchard, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, was recently recognised for her role in the Boost II study, which showed how carefully targeted oxygen levels can save the lives of thousands of very pre-term babies.
Alongside the Royal Brisbane Women’s and Mater Hospitals in Brisbane, Professor Pritchard played a key role in the study, which was named Australian Clinical Trials Alliance Trial of the Year - first runner up, by Greg Hunt, Federal Health Minister at an awards ceremony in May.
Most very preterm babies need extra oxygen, because their lungs are immature. Too much oxygen may harm their eyes (sometimes causing blindness) and too little reduces their chances of healthy survival.
For fifty years, doctors and nurses have had no good evidence about the best level of blood oxygen for very preterm babies. Until recently, the accepted range was between 85 per cent and 95 per cent saturation.
The BOOST II Australia trial was funded by the National Health and Medical Research council to study this question in 1200 very preterm babies. It was one of five similar studies around the world – called the NeoPrOM Collaboration - designed to find out if aiming for lower (85-89 per cent) or higher (91-95 per cent) blood oxygen, both within the accepted range, improved healthy survival.
Thousands of parents, nurses, doctors and researchers enrolled 1135 babies in BOOST II Australia. Parents of nearly 5000 children worldwide joined this unique effort by contributing to the NeoPrOM Collaboration - in Australia, NZ, UK, US, Canada and 10 other countries.
This global collaboration shows that, for every 1000 very preterm children treated with oxygen, we will save 28 more lives by aiming for 91-95% saturation instead of 85-89% - with no increase in blindness or disability.
“This evidence will save thousands of lives, at minimal cost,” commented BOOST II Australia co-ordinator, William Tarnow-Mordi, Director of Neonatal and Perinatal Trials, at the WINNER Centre, NHMRC Clinical Research Centre, University of Sydney. “It was made possible by the wholehearted support of parents, and researchers like Professor Margo Pritchard and collaborating Hospital teams – and by dedicated people like them all over Australia,” he added.
Work is in progress to follow up the children in the study during early childhood. BOOST II Australia was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.