Southampton clinicians return to Nepal to share research findings

Prof Mike Grocott in Nepal

A team of doctors and nurses from Southampton's teaching hospitals have returned to Nepal to share the findings of pioneering research carried out in the South Asian country.

Led by Professor Mike Grocott, critical care research lead at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, they met local clinicians and members of the community to discuss the results of Xtreme Everest during its tenth anniversary year.

The project – a collaboration with University College London and Duke University in the USA – has involved two major expeditions to study the oxygen-thin air of the Himalayas to simulate the lack of oxygen, known as hypoxia, experienced by many patients while in hospital intensive care units.

One in five people in the UK end up in intensive care at some point and, of those, 40% die, with lack of oxygen a major contributory factor.

During the two expeditions, intensive care doctors, nurses and scientists conducted experiments on themselves at high altitude in harsh conditions on the world's highest mountain.

In addition, they recruited a group of volunteers which included identical twins, children and the Sherpa people who live in the mountainous region to enable them to compare results in children and adults and understand how Sherpas thrive in such an environment.

As part of the anniversary visit, the team hosted a two-day conference in Kathmandu – KnO2wledge Kathmandu: Oxygen – in partnership with the Nepal Mountain Medicine Society, where they presented on physiology and illness at altitude, better clinical oxygen care and infectious diseases.

As well as Xtreme Everest findings, Dr Max Jonas, a consultant in critical care at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, presented experiences from the general intensive care unit in Southampton to Nepalese clinicians and healthcare professionals.

He also distributed 40 copies of the latest intensive care unit textbooks to hospitals and medical centres in the country, while the team also visited the Sherpa capital of Namche to share the findings of their research into how Sherpas have adapted and respond to altitude better than lowlanders.

"Both events were a great way to celebrate the last ten years and the work that's advanced our understanding of low-oxygen effects, physiological adaptation and targets for better oxygen therapy," said Prof Grocott, a consultant in critical care at UHS and a professor of anaesthesia and critical care medicine at the University of Southampton.

"The event in Namche was particularly important to us, though, as the Sherpa community have been a central part of our research through the Xtreme Everest studies."

Posted on Thursday 4 May 2017