Intermountain Medical Center Researcher Receives Major NIH Grant to Research Life-Threatening Infections

Jess Gomez

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MURRAY, UT (12/3/2010) – A clinical researcher at Intermountain Medical Center has been awarded a highly-prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences for his innovative research on ways the body controls heart rate and blood pressure in response to life-threatening sepsis infections.

Samuel Brown, MD, attending physician in the shock trauma intensive care unit at Intermountain Medical Center, will use the $600,000 award to fund his research over a five-year period. The goal of this research is to discover better ways of treating sepsis, particularly in its most serious form, septic shock. Several hundred patients are expected to be involved in the study.

Sepsis begins when an ordinary infection, such as in the lungs or urinary tract, causes inflammation and tissue damage to spread throughout the body. If sepsis isn’t controlled, the whole body can be affected and multiple organs can fail. Over 750,000 Americans are afflicted by sepsis each year; up to 50 percent of them will die.

“There’s a lot of variability in heart rate and blood pressure in normal people,” says Dr. Brown. “In sepsis, that natural variability is lost, and the changes in that variability can tell us a lot about how the body is responding. If we can better predict how patients will react to severe infection, we’ll have a better chance at treating people who develop sepsis.”

This research will study hidden rhythms in the heart rate and blood pressure of patients with sepsis admitted to ICUs at Intermountain Medical Center. Researchers will use continuous measurements — 500 per second — to analyze the function of the heart and the strength of blood vessels. These signals will be correlated with any medications a patient may be taking, as well as individual patient recovery from sepsis.

Dr. Brown’s award expands the scope of Intermountain Medical Center’s groundbreaking sepsis research and care. A recent study demonstrated dramatically improved survival associated with protocols for sepsis care that Intermountain hospitals implemented, and Intermountain physicians have been involved in national and international efforts to improve sepsis care.

Dr. Brown said one reason he was able to secure the award was because of Intermountain Healthcare’s award-winning electronic health record system.

“Here at Intermountain we can take into consideration many different factors about patients as we treat them, even conditions that change minute by minute. There are very few centers in the world where this type of research is even possible,” said Dr. Brown.

The research that led to this award was supported by the Easton Family Fund of the Intermountain Research and Medical Foundation, formerly, the Deseret Foundation.

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