Teens to put diabetes technology to test

Teens with type 1 diabetes who are struggling to control their blood-glucose levels will be the target of new WA research which aims to help them manage their condition using an advanced-technology pump.

Perth Children’s Hospital paediatrician Dr Mary Abraham says significant patient engagement is needed for people with diabetes to keep their blood-glucose levels in check and that such vigilance can wane in adolescence, increasing their risks of short and long-term complications.

A Department of Health-funded Clinician Research Fellowship will enable Dr Abraham to pursue research that will determine whether being fitted with the small medical device – which reduces the effort needed to control blood-glucose levels – improves outcomes for teens who are failing to properly manage their condition.

Patients fitted with the device must still determine the carbohydrate content of any food or drink they consume but are spared the multiple finger pricks a day that they would otherwise have to perform. This is because the device takes continual glucose readings and automates their background insulin accordingly.

Dr Abraham hypothesises that having the semi-automated device will not only help keep the teens’ blood-glucose levels within target range but improve their wellbeing to such an extent, that they will be more motivated to keep on top of their condition.

She says addressing patterns of suboptimal management in adolescence is also likely to prevent these patterns persisting into adulthood where, once entrenched, they could lead to serious complications such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, sometimes requiring amputation.

Dr Abraham’s study will compare outcomes for teens using the device with those on a standard management regime. Patients recruited will be those identified as having suboptimal management of their condition.

Complications of type 1 diabetes can result in reduced life expectancy and less than a third of young patients with type 1 diabetes attain the target glucose levels known to reduce risk of complications.

In Western Australia about 1000 children under 18 years of age live with type 1 diabetes.

Dr Abraham is one of three local researchers who will share in around $1 million awarded in round eight of the Department of Health Raine Medical Research Foundation Clinician Research Fellowship program.

The Clinician Research Fellowship program is an initiative of the Department of Health and Raine Medical Research Foundation that enables clinicians to pursue research of relevance to the WA Health system.

Fellowships can be for up to three years depending on the extent of the research proposal. Clinicians are required to continue some of their clinical duties during the period of their fellowship.

Assistant Director General Clinical Excellence Division, Dr James Williamson, said Dr Abraham’s project highlighted some of the valuable research being undertaken by clinician researchers working within Western Australia’s public health system.

Perth Children’s Hospital is part of the Child and Adolescent Health Service.

Clinician Research Fellowship round eight recipients are:

Dr Dayse Tavora-Vieira

Head of Department Audiology, Fiona Stanley Hospital

Project: The use of electrophysiology to optimise hearing implants in hearing-impaired recipients.

Dr Mary Abraham

Paediatric endocrinologist, Perth Children’s Hospital

Project: Hybrid closed-loop system in adolescents with sub-optimal glycaemic control.

Dr Emma Hamilton

Consultant Endocrinologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital

Project: Improving outcomes for patients with diabetes-related foot disease.

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