Burns, Trauma & Critical Care Research Centre

Caring for the critically ill and injured at RBWH

Every single day there is a least one story on the News that ends with “…was taken to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for treatment”.

Victims of Queensland’s worst accidents and traumas are typically transported to RBWH as it is the major tertiary referral hospital in the State and boasts a team of medical experts that are leaders in their various fields.

These patients are victims of major traumas such as road accidents, workplace accidents, fires, natural disasters and physical assaults. They are typically first treated in RBWH’s Intensive Care Unit and their reasons for being in hospital are often unexpected and sudden. Their injury or illness is generally life-threatening and high levels of treatment and support are required, especially in the early stages.

People with these critical illnesses or injuries basically suffer from failure of one or more of their body’s organ systems such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, or even the brain. All of these organs work closely together in the healthy body, so it is not surprising that when one fails, others often follow.

The Intensive Care Unit at RBWH treats 2,000 of these patients each year with a 92% survival rate, making it one of the top three Intensive Care Units in Australia for positive outcomes.

Many of the burns patients that are first treated and stabilised in Intensive Care are referred to the Burns Unit for more specialised, ongoing treatment. The Burns Unit at RBWH is, in fact, internationally recognised in medical publications as having the best burns outcomes in the world with just a two per cent mortality rate.

Origin of the Burns, Trauma & Critical Care Research Centre

The Burns, Trauma & Critical Care Research Centre (BTCCRC) was established in 2004 in response to the Bali bombings. The devastation and tragedy of this event focused national and international attention on burns victims and emphasized that there was a critical need to improve the treatment and outcomes of burnt and critically-ill patients. The outstanding response from the critical care, burns, emergency medicine and anaesthetics teams of RBWH and University of Queensland (UQ) highlighted the skill and expertise both possess in this area

BTCCRC’s Mission

The BTCCRC was established to further advance and improve the level of treatment and care given to burns and critically-ill patients through world-class, research-based clinical practice. In its mission to improve the treatment of critically ill patients, the centre has continued to extend its study collaboration with colleagues across Australia and overseas.


The main aims of the research centre are to:

  • Improve both the survival and outcome of patients by conducting high quality research in the area of Burns, Trauma, Critical Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesia in general.
  • Provide a research-driven evidence base that informs clinical practice and policy in Burns, Trauma, Critical Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesia.
  • Establish local, national and international collaboration in these areas thus increasing research opportunities.
  • Enhance the research training and knowledge base of postgraduate students and staff in the above clinical areas.

The Research

Research within the centre has expanded remarkably since its inception and is now divided into six core disciplines, each with its own research agenda.

  1. Drug Dosing and Pharmacokinetics
  2. Critical Care
  3. Burns
  4. Anaesthesia
  5. Emergency medicine
  6. Military medicine

BTCCRC’s clinical research addresses serious medical issues in the fields of trauma, critical care, burns, emergency medicine and anaesthesia. The multidisciplinary expertise and collaboration found within the research centre places it in a coveted position to undertake and succeed in cutting edge research. BTCCRC’s expertise includes intensivists, burns surgeons, anaesthetists, cardiologists, neurosurgeons, emergency physicians, scientists, physiologists, nutritionists, physiotherapists, intensive care nurses and psychologists. New to its research repertoire is Military Medicine following the hospital’s appointment of the inaugural Australian Defence Force Professor of Military Medicine and Surgery, Professor Michael Reade.

BTCCRC needs your help

BTCCRC have several very important research projects either in progress or in the preliminary stages which require additional funding in order to continue or get underway.

One such project – which has already been proven to save lives – is research into antibiotic dosing.

Antibiotics are generally prescribed by GPs to treat relatively common bacterial ailments ranging from ear infections to acne. They were not necessarily designed to treat patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) with critical conditions where a ‘one-size fits all’ approach is rarely possible.

BTCCRC, however, have been investigating the ‘superdosing’ of antibiotics for ICU patients at critical infection times in order to accelerate recovery.   An approach that will potentially change the way antibiotic are currently used in ICUs across the world.

The team have found that by looking at an individual’s genes – through the use of bio markers and genomic testing – they can identify the right time to ‘superdose’ antibiotics over a short period of time and limit the unnecessary over-use of antibiotics.

This method is currently in practice at the RBWH where between 400–600 critically ill patients are treated in Intensive Care per year. On average, a patient will need to be tested five times during their treatment with each test costing $200.

Giving these large doses of antibiotics at critical times has already saved the lives and accelerated the recoveries of burns patients such as Paris Turkington and celebrity chef Matt Golinski.

More lives could be saved, however, if this research can continue and develop.

In order to foster the continuation of the advancements in the care of burns and critically-ill patients that have already been developed, BTCCRC requires funding.

This funding is not currently available through government bodies. To raise the funding needed, we rely on corporate sponsorship, donations, community initiatives.