Researching the best care for lung transplant patients

New research to ensure that every child undergoing a lung transplant receives the best care is underway at the RCH, thanks to support from the RCH Foundation.  

Delivered through the Clinical Research Fellowship in CF, this research is being undertaken by Dr Allison Carroll, who is evaluating the paediatric lung transplant program in Australia. 

Her aim is to assess how the program is working, and whether it is meeting the needs of patients, their families and healthcare workers. 

Lung transplants in children are rare, with around 100 performed worldwide annually, and less than 10 performed each year in Australia. In children, lung transplants are most commonly due to CF, however, with the introduction of new highly effective treatments, this need is changing. 

Children with CF who currently need lung transplants may be more complex cases, and other reasons for lung transplants, such as pulmonary hypertension, are on the increase. 

“A lung transplant is a very complex procedure and takes considerable experience and expertise. Being rare, it can be difficult for teams to gain and maintain these skills in paediatrics,” Allison said. 

With the support of the RCH, The Alfred Hospital – which undertakes a large number of adult lung transplants – became the nationally funded centre for paediatric lung transplants over a decade ago. 

Now, instead of various hospitals across Australia performing very few lung transplants, all children are transferred to The Alfred for care, with paediatric expertise and advice provided by RCH staff. Since the program was established, the centre has completed around 60 paediatric lung transplants. 

Allison brings unique experience to this project, having relocated to Australia with her family from Canada in 2021.

She was involved with the paediatric lung transplant program through the University of Alberta and Stollery Children’s Hospital. 

Allison is now undertaking a Masters of Public Health at the University of Melbourne and has a strong interest in the quality and improvement of public care. 

“There are some similarities between Australia and Canada in the sense that both countries have a large geographical area and relatively low population, but both have different approaches to how lung transplant programs are delivered,” Allison said. 

As part of her research, Allison and the research team will interview referring healthcare providers including respiratory medicine physicians and cardiologists, intensive care specialists, and members of the transplant team. 

“The study will ascertain how we ensure the best care for one of the most severely ill group of patients at either the RCH or The Alfred, and will help gain an understanding of how to provide the best services during this very difficult time for patients and their families. There is not a lot of knowledge about the patient experience, and how this impacts their care,” Allison said. 

The study will also contribute to the understanding of best practice for integrating complex paediatric care within adult services and providing rare, highly specialised paediatric care across large geographical areas. 

Allison is grateful for the support of the RCH Foundation, which has allowed her time to undertake a graduate degree and learn from the world class teams at the RCH. 

“Through my new experiences in Australia, I’ve gained insight into exciting new approaches to CF care from a different perspective. Participating in the RCH’s comprehensive clinical, research and quality improvement programs have given me a broader view of CF care.”