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Business First, August 18, 2000

August 18, 2000

Seeking better patient outcomes

Outcomes Research, a 75-member clinical research group with members spread worldwide, moved its headquarters from the University of California, San Francisco, to U of L in March. The institute is headed by Dr. Daniel I. Sessler, 45, who is now professor of anesthesiology, associate dean for research/clinical research and also hold the Drs. Lolita S. and Samuel D. Weakley Chair in Anesthesiology.

At any given time, Outcomes Research may be involved in as many as 70 clinical trials at medical centers throughout the world, Sessler said. The institute’s research is geared toward identifying factors that help bring about better outcomes for patients, particularly those having surgery.

“Outcomes are things patients can detect themselves, such as going home from the hospital sooner, having less pain or needing fewer blood transfusions, with mortality being perhaps the biggest and most obvious outcome,” Sessler said.

Many of Outcomes Research’s trials involve reducing the risk of wound, or incision, infection after surgery. For example, research has shown that simply keeping the patient warm during surgery significantly reduces the risk of infection and decreases the duration of hospital stays by 20 percent, Sessler said.

“We’ve also tested the simple hypothesis that just giving extra oxygen during surgery would reduce the risk of wound infections, and we found that indeed it did,” he said. “Increasing the standard oxygen concentration from 30 percent to 80 percent halved the risk of wound infection.”

Reducing the risk of infection is important because patients who develop a wound infection are twice as likely to be placed in intensive care and twice as likely to die, Sessler said. In addition, the average infected patient stays in the hospital a week longer than an uninfected one, he said.

Although Outcomes Research has not conducted previous studies in Louisville, moving its administrative center here means that “as many of our trials as possible will be done here, and those that require multiple centers will almost always have a Louisville component,” Sessler said. “We expect to literally bring hundreds of trials here over the next few years.”

Outcomes Research currently has about $4 million in funding. About half of that comes from the National Institutes of Health and other peer-reviewed grant sources and the other half comes from industry sources, such as manufacturers of medical devices, Sessler said.

Sessler’s wife, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Ximena Valdes, also has relocated to Louisville. The couple has two grown children. Sessler, whose appointment is through the Buck for Brains program, received his medical degree from Columbia University. Five other researchers and administrators have already joined Sessler in Louisville, and another six to eight people will follow within the next year he said.