World focus on LGH research

FROM a  hospital in Northern Tasmania, Associate Professor Alhossain Khalafallah has made a series of simple but momentous discoveries that  could improve the health of pregnant women, their children  and pre-operative patients around the world.

This week the consultant haematologist will represent the Launceston General Hospital on the global stage when he presents his findings at an exclusive and competitive Milan conference as ``breaking scientific news''.

It's the latest of many accolades for Associate Professor Khalafallah, whose research into iron deficiency anaemia has already improved health outcomes at the  LGH  and has been incorporated into the World Health Organisation's international guidelines for treatment.

Associate Professor Khalafallah said he began his research in 2006  after noticing how many risky blood transfusions were being given to late-term pregnant patients with low iron.

Through a series of trials at the hospital, Associate Professor Khalafallah has  developed ways to better diagnose and manage iron deficiency anaemia in pregnant patients.

It's a simple discovery that has delivered enormous results.

Associate Professor Khalafallah has found that in pregnant women with iron deficiency or anaemia, one iron transfusion can minimise late-term blood transfusions and improve physical wellbeing.

But in a major breakthrough, he has also discovered that it can improve a mother's mental health and lengthen the duration of breastfeeding.

``We found that their depression or post-natal depression is as good as gone if their iron is high,'' Associate Professor Khalafalla said.

``That's a correlation that's never been reported before.

``These women felt great, more energetic, more vital and less depressed when their iron was high . . .  we followed up with them for three years and got these amazing results.''

In another series of trials, Associate Professor Khalafallah also found that in elective surgery patients, one iron transfusion delivered better surgery outcomes, reduced their length of stay in hospital and minimised unnecessary blood transfusions.

He said the treatment was estimated to save $400,000 a year in a 300-bed hospital.

Associate Professor Khalafallah said the opportunity to present his findings at the Congress of the European Haematology Association in Italy represented a huge achievement for the entire hospital, with several departments contributing to the research.

``It was all collaborative work, and this harmony can produce such wonderful things,'' he said.

``With our limited resources we have shown we can compete with people with the highest resources in the United States and Europe.

``You imagine a small hospital like this producing this amount of work, and the World Health Organisation is referring to our work . . .  so we've changed a lot of concepts not only in Australia but also worldwide.''

Associate Professor Alhossain Khalafallah

Associate Professor Alhossain Khalafallah


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