Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation


On the path to better bone health

Friday, 28 June 2013 00:00

As Australia's population ages, degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis will take an increasing toll on the nation's healthcare system.


In a bid to prevent the burden of disease, researchers from Flinders University are using advanced microscopic techniques to better understand how and why bone loss occurs in the elderly.


Chief investigator Dr Egon Perilli said a special X-ray method known as a micro-computed tomography, or micro-CT, is enabling his team to analyse the complex structures of the skeletal system, including bone density and the thin internal features of the bone, in 3D.


He said the technique allows researchers to characterise the "microarchitecture" of the bone at a level which cannot be seen with conventional scanners in clinics.


"Conventionally, to see images at the same level, you have to take a biopsy, literally slice it up and look at it under a microscope but when you cut it up you destroy the 3D features," Dr Perilli, Senior Research Fellow based in the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics, said.


"On the other hand, micro-CT allows us to preserve the 3D structure of the bone biopsy because you don't need to cut it up to examine it," he said.


"The same bone can also undergo mechanical testing, and the data used in computer simulations, to investigate the relationships between bone density, microarchitecture and mechanical competence.


By understanding how bone loss occurs in the elderly, Dr Perilli said he hoped to develop better diagnostic tools to identify patients at-risk of fractures while creating advances in the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases.


"Many patients currently identified as osteoporotic, and therefore at increased risk of fracture, might not actually experience a fracture later in life. Yet they fall into this risk category because of their low areal bone mineral density; and thus probably receive pharmaceutical treatment.


"However, there are also a number of people who instead don't fall into the osteoporotic category and are possibly not getting treatment when they should.


"So a key aim of this research is to find a way to better diagnose patients at risk.


"If we better understand why bone loss happens, and how to identify when a patient has lost a critical amount of bone that would put them at risk of fracture, we can look at developing more targeted therapies to reduce that risk and also delay, if not obviate, the need for hospitalisation or expensive surgery associated with fracture repair."


Source: Flinders University


New Research for Tiny Hearts

Friday, 31 May 2013 00:00

A 'Speckle Tracking' technology commonly used in the diagnosis and management of heart conditions in adults is being used in a trial at Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) to investigate whether it has the same applicability for premature babies.


The $150,000 echocardiography machine for newborns, purchased after an ongoing FMC Foundation fundraising campaign in 2010 thanks to significant donations from Newman's Own Foundation and Coopers Brewery Foundation and other generous supporters, is one of only a handful in operation in South Australia.


The state-of-the-art machine is able to detect rapid changes in premature baby's blood flow and pressures in various chambers in their tiny hearts - as well as the velocity of tissue movement in the heart's chambers.


FMC Consultant Paediatrician Dr Sanjay Sinhal, who is leading the research, said the study would focus on premature babies born with an infection, asphyxia, severe lung disease and poor heart function or low blood pressure due to any other cause.


"With premature babies, their condition can change from minute to minute in the first few hours, so it is important for us to be able to look directly at the heart and assess how it is functioning," Dr Sinhal said.


"We can use stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors to assess heart function, but the echocardiography provides a much more accurate assessment."


Echocardiography is traditionally used in assessing heart structure in newborns and children.


Functional assessment is not yet used widely in day-to-day Neonatal care because of the limited availability of echocardiography machines in Neonatal ICUs, and a lack of research data to understand the information gained.


"We want to establish normative data on various parameters obtained from Tissue Doppler Imaging in premature babies and assess its application in various neonatal conditions."


He said the machine's accuracy in showing changes in the heart would better equip doctors to make decisions about treatment and surgery.


"Functional assessment of the heart can be used any time of the day or night, whenever it is needed, with the echocardiography machine located in-house in the Neonatal ICU."


Dr Sinhal said the echocardiogram software used to analyse Tissue Doppler Images was better placed to monitor the slower heartbeat of an adult - approximately 60-80 beats per minute - and part of the study would be testing if the software could analyse the faster beating heart of a premature baby - approximately 120-180 beats per minute.


FMC researchers are also taking part in the Australian Placental Transfusion Study (APTS), which is the largest ever randomised controlled trial of placental transfusion in premature babies.


Jack Pack on Track for John o'Groats

Thursday, 30 May 2013 13:21


Click here to support the Jack Pack team


Four original members of the “Jack Pack” cycling group are taking on the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation’s UK Cancer Cycle Challenge in June 2013, riding 1600km across Great Britain to raise funds for cancer research.


Richard Wescombe, together with younger brother Lindsay, a cancer survivor, and friends Alan Miller and Mike Wilson, will ride an average of 115km each day which will take them from Land’s End, England to John o’Groats, Scotland in 14 days.


Through their efforts, and the efforts of 20 other riders from across South Australia, the UK Cycle team are hoping to raise $100,000 to support vital research in cancer prevention, early diagnosis, new treatments and patient care in the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.


Richard, business owner of Snowy’s Outdoors and the first participant to sign up after seeing the UK Cycle Challenge in The Advertiser, said he was motivated both by the adventure and by the cause.


“We’ve got the opportunity to support the wonderful work at Flinders, and have fun at the same time,” he said.


“I’ve lost people close to me to cancer, as everyone has.


“It is thanks to cancer research that my brother, Lindsay, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma 20 years ago, is still alive.”


Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell responsible for the production of bone marrow. During his treatment Lindsay underwent five rounds of radiotherapy, and transplants of bone marrow donated by Richard.


“The bone marrow transplants involved a week of injections to stimulate the bone marrow growth, and then blood was taken through an IV line in a vein and the stem cells were separated and given to Lindsay,” Richard said.


“Ten years ago this procedure would have been much more painful – although I like Lindsay to think I went through a lot for him!”


For Lindsay, who is now in recovery from the cancer, his biggest concern is being able to ride the full distance every day – but he plans to give it his best shot, and jump into the support vehicle if required.


“I’ll just take every day as it comes,” he said.


The “Jack Pack” was established in 2003, and its 24 team members ride every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Individually, Richard, Lindsay, Alan and Mike have raised more than $18,480 for the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation so far.


To support the “Jack Pack” in their fundraising efforts as a team visit www.teamflinders.com.au/ukcycle/fundraisers/jack-pack


Doctor's Own Journey to Conquer Cancer

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 11:50

First Published Barossa Herald May 15 2013

Carol Dowden and Dr Janet MacPhail from Gawler are both raising money and riding in the 200 kilometre Ride to Conquer Cancer starting November 30.


Carol runs Dowden Personal Fitness and Dr MacPhail has attended Carol’s studio for two years, where the pair met. 


Dr MacPhail saw the event advertised on television and mentioned it to Carol and they both signed up.


Dr MacPhail has her own personal story about cancer and is currently fighting breast cancer. She was undergoing chemotherapy and will be again leading up to the event.


“I have already raised $5000 and am currently South Australia’s top 100 fundraiser at this stage,” she said.


Funds raised assist the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation support the vital work of over 100 investigators in the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer (FCIC) - South Australia’s leading cancer care and research facility.


“As a general practitioner and cancer patient, I fully realise how important research into cancer is and I hope we can inspire others to get involved,” Dr MacPhail said.


Carol said, “Losing both my parents to cancer some time ago and just recently my sister-in-law, while at the same time Janet was diagnosed inspired me to do something.”


The event is for anyone who wants to challenge themselves for a great cause - even people who haven’t ridden since they were 12 years old. 


Carol said, “I like to think of it as a history-making opportunity to do something big about fighting cancer, something epic - like cycling for two days through the countryside where I live.”


The ladies are holding a fundraising movie afternoon on Sunday, June 2 at Gawler Cinemas showing ‘The Great Gatsby’.


For more information or to donate go to conquercancer.org.au or contact Carol 8523 1318.


Your Donation Could Help Flinders Blossom

Friday, 10 May 2013 14:54



For two year old Heidi Block, life is as bright as a bunch of flowers. However, her start to life wasn’t easy. Heidi was born in the Flinders Neonatal Unit at 25 weeks gestation.

Heidi spent 127 days under the care of the dedicated Neonatal staff, or her ‘guardian angels’ as her Mother calls them. Like all premature babies she encountered numerous hurdles, including life-saving bowel surgery, before returning home.

Following the wishes of a dear family friend, the late Mrs Patricia Woollard, Heidi’s family made a donation to thank the hard working ‘guardian angels’ of the Neonatal Unit.

Mrs Woollard’s bequest has enabled the family to ‘plant’ a Gift of Life Flower image on the windows of the FMC Foundation. The beautiful pink gerbera will have ‘In loving memory of Patricia Woollard supporting the work of the Neonatal Unit’ printed around the flower’s centre.

You can do the same and ‘plant’ a Gift of Life Flower for vital medical research or life-saving equipment at Flinders. When you donate, your flower with your name, or that of a loved one, will blossom for one year alongside the flowers of other generous donors on the reflective FMC Foundation windows in the heart of the Flinders Medical Centre.

Your donation can support the cause of your choice such as cancer, heart, ophthalmology, neuroscience, Intensive Care Unit, or children.

Every year thousands of people, just like Heidi, receive life-saving care at the Flinders Medical Centre. Flinders is also one of Australia’s leading research facilities with hundreds of brilliant minds working towards finding solutions to prevent and cure conditions and diseases that affect our loved ones.

You can help these brilliant doctors and researchers have the latest technology and equipment by donating and planting a Gift of Life Flower.

You can choose from a variety of beautiful flowers and have a name, favourite quote or a dedication printed on the flower which will blossom for one year.

Download an order form here or visit www.teamflinders.com.au/flowers to choose your flower.

Donate $120 and choose from a daffodil, daisy or pink rose. These flowers are 12.5cm in diameter and can have a maximum of 40 characters (including spaces) printed on them.

Donate $300 and choose from an orange gerbera or red rose. These flowers are 19cm in diameter and can have a maximum of 60 characters (including spaces) printed on them.

Donate $600 and choose from a sunflower or a pink gerbera. These flowers are 24cm in diameter and can have a maximum of 80 characters (including spaces) printed on them.

Alternatively, donations for the flowers can also be accrued, please indicate this on the form and we will track your donations for you. We will ‘plant’ your flower on the window once your donation has been completed.

Your support is very much appreciated. Download an order form here or visit www.teamflinders.com.au/flowers to ‘plant’ a gift of life flower and help change the lives of present and future generations.


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