Patients and public get to the heart of research

Posted by ap507 at Jun 02, 2015 11:20 AM |
University of Leicester study investigates how cardiac surgery can lead to organ damage

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 2 June 2015

Contact to request images.

A University of Leicester-based research group funded by the British Heart Foundation is drawing on support from patients and members of the public to investigate why cardiac surgery can often result in serious or fatal damage to other organs in the body.

The Cardiac Surgery Research team are conducting a series of trials into why almost half of patients having heart surgery develop failure of one or more other organs, such as the lungs or kidneys.

Organ failure after cardiac surgery is now causing higher rates of mortality nationally than breast cancer.

This vital new research relies on patients volunteering to take part in clinical trials, and members of the public, many of whom are heart attack survivors themselves, have volunteered their services to help cardiac surgery research by joining the ground-breaking Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) group.

The Cardiac Surgery Research PPI group is directly helping the research team’s work as it focuses on the possible side effects of blood transfusion and whether medicines used in other treatments might help prevent organ damage, as well as whether diseases like diabetes increase the likelihood of post-surgery complications occurring.

In keeping with Glenfield Hospital’s position as a leading provider of children’s cardiac services, one of the studies - the p-MiVAKI trial (funded by the local charity Heart Link) – continues to make fresh discoveries into why heart operations on children can often lead to kidney damage.

Silvia Mariani, Clinical Research Fellow in Cardiac Surgery at Leicester’s Hospitals and one of the chief researchers in the p-MiVAKI trial, explained: “Having members of the public cast an eye over the information we give to families whose children are about to undergo heart surgery, and whose help we are asking for in our research at such a difficult time for them, has been a huge help in getting the right messages across in the right way.

“I have no doubt that this will have a long term benefit in the way we conduct future trials involving children.”

A year ago the cardiac surgery team set up their PPI group to provide valuable feedback on what the studies’ priorities should be, to make sure that the research was relevant to patients themselves, to explain it clearly, and to raise awareness of this crucial work. They have also been active in organising events at which the researchers can talk about their work and its progress.

A central part of the PPI’s role is helping the research team by ensuring that the literature given to patients and their families is clear and easy to understand and that the volunteers themselves are fully supported throughout the trials.

One of the PPI group members, Alan Phillips, a volunteer trained in research by the Volunteer Service at Leicester’s Hospitals, is frequently seen on cardiac wards spending time with patient volunteers, giving reassurance and acting as an alternative sounding board to doctors and nurses.

Alan said: “Sometimes it’s just a case of explaining what some of the technical jargon means, but sometimes our patients want to talk to someone on their side of the fence, and that’s what I’m there for.  It’s very rewarding and the patients find it really helpful.

“Being part of the volunteer service is payback for the superb service and care I received when I had open heart surgery at Glenfield to repair a hole 6 years ago.”

Members of the PPI group are soon hoping to accompany researchers out in the community helping to spread the word about the work going on at Glenfield Hospital.

The PPI team have arranged for Professor Gavin Murphy, BHF Professor of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Leicester, to give a lecture entitled ‘How safe is blood transfusion?’ at Loughborough University on 16 June.

Professor Murphy, who leads all current cardiac surgery trials at the University of Leicester, will also be appearing later in the year at The Exchange in Leicester’s cultural quarter in the latest round of ‘Café Scientifique’ presentations.

Commenting on the part played by his PPI group, Professor Murphy said: “By making public and patient participation part of our research strategy we will ensure that our research best reflects the needs and concerns of the community which it aims to help.

“We would be unable to deliver our current research strategy without the commitment and time kindly given by the previous patients and members of the public who make up our PPI, which is directly making a difference to both patient experience and research success to an unprecedented extent.”

Professor Murphy is celebrating the publication in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) of his latest research paper on the effects of transfusion after cardiac surgery – details of which the PPI group will be helping to circulate at local events and through social media throughout the year.

For further information regarding the PPI group activities please contact Professor Murphy’s research team on



Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Professor Gavin Murphy, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester. Email:



Public Lectures to be given by Professor Gavin Murphy

*Loughborough University 16th June:  Talk on “How Safe is Blood Transfusion” to be held in Lecture Theatre U0005, Brockington Building,  Loughborough University LE11 3TU at 6.45pm.  Refreshments available from 6.30pm.

* Café Scientifique September 7th:  to be held at 6.30pm in The Exchange, 50 Rutland Street, Leicester LE1 1RD

About the British Heart Foundation

Coronary heart disease is the UK’s single biggest killer. For over 50 years we’ve pioneered research that’s transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. Our work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. But so many people still need our help. From babies born with life-threatening heart problems to the many Mums, Dads and Grandparents who survive a heart attack and endure the daily battles of heart failure. Join our fight for every heartbeat in the UK. Every pound raised, minute of your time and donation to our shops will help make a difference to people’s lives.

For more information visit

Share this page: