Research is the only way to continuously improve the provision of care for patients and their loved ones.
This naturally also applies to patients with advanced and progressive diseases. Therefore, research has to be an integral part of palliative care. Next to clinical care and education, it is a pillar of our identity as an academic institution at the Department of Palliative Medicine.
In the special situation of palliative care patients, research must of course be carried out very carefully and ethically justifiably, with the utmost respect for patients and their loved ones.
The challenges in palliative care research are not only to address the vulnerability of the patient group. Especially in research at the end of life it is often not possible to interview the patients themselves or to contact them several times over a longer period of time. For this reason, loved ones or the clinical personnel are then asked for an assessment. Particular consideration is given to the current situation of the loved ones when they are involved in accompanying and caring for the patient or when the assessment takes place after the death of the patient.
As in palliative care itself, research in this field revolves around patients and their loved ones and, therefore, has to be interdisciplinary and multi-professional. In addition to medical doctors, researchers at the department include psychologists, social education workers and health scientists.
Research in palliative care relies on cooperation due to the special situation of the patients and the resulting methodological challenges. The Department of Palliative Medicine has taken on this task and successfully established several internal and external, partly inter-faculty, collaborations and research networks.
The research priorities that have developed in recent years can be grouped into three thematic Areas:
- education research
Using radar interferometry, biomarkers such as heartbeat and respiration can be recorded over a distance of several metres and through materials that interact only slightly with electromagnetic waves, such as clothing, bedspreads, mattresses or wooden components, without any stress for the person concerned.
The technical basis is the six-port radar interferometer. This technology is being intensively researched exclusively by the project initiators in connection with biomarkers.
As a result of previous research, it is possible to reliably record heartbeat and respiration in test persons (LINK: GUARDIAN).
Further biomarkers that indicate the function of the autonomic nervous system can be derived from the vital parameters, e.g. heart rate variability (HRV). This enables the application in epilepsy diagnostics, because by means of ECG analyses, a significant change in HRV could be found during and also in the immediate run-up to an epileptic seizure. In the present project, these changes are to be used to detect or even predict epileptic seizures by radar-based, contact-free and stress-free monitoring. This enables continuous monitoring and monitoring of affected persons who can only cooperate to a limited extent, such as infants or newborns.
This opens up the following typical fields of application:
- Continuous monitoring to detect clinically inapparent seizures and quantify the frequency of occurrence of seizures to optimise antiepileptic treatment.
- Anticipation of clinical onset of an epileptic seizure up to 15 minutes before onset
- Detect long-term changes or early signs associated with sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP)
- Monitoring during a seizure to detect critical developments (prolonged respiratory arrest, generalisation)
The research is taking place within the framework of a BMBF-funded project in an interdisciplinary consortium (funding code 13GW 0295).