Clinician feedback needed for RBWH gestational diabetes research

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Temporary changes to the national screening and diagnosis of gestational diabetes during COVID-19 restrictions, as developed by Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH), may result in new Australian guidelines.

A formal evaluation of the changes, which could see around 19 out of 20 women avoiding an oral glucose tolerance test by having a one-off fasting blood test instead, is being funded by the RBWH Foundation Coronavirus Action Fund.

About 15 per cent of pregnant Australians are diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), usually between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. Because of this, more than 300,000 oral glucose tests are performed in Australia each year.

RBWH is now seeking clinicians who used the new blood test alternative to traditional glucose testing, to share their feedback in a telephone interview.  

Interested clinicians can register here.

“A reduction in unnecessary glucose testing may well be one of the silver linings to the cloud cast by COVID-19,” said RBWH Foundation CEO Simone Garske. 

 “The Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) oral glucose tolerance test involves drinking a very sugary liquid and undertaking several blood tests, which can take up to three hours of women’s time. 

 “To think RBWH Foundation funded research may reduce the need for this test for potentially thousands of women each year is extremely exciting.” 

 With endorsement from the Australasian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society, Queensland was the first to introduce the new testing algorithm and it was quickly adopted by clinicians nationally. 

RBWH Senior Dietitian and Research Fellow, Dr Susan de Jersey, said her team’s research would evaluate the impact of these changes on both maternal and infant outcomes, and on screening process measures including cost. 

“During the initial pandemic lockdowns, we didn’t want to put immunocompromised pregnant women at unnecessary risk by having them sit in a pathology lab for a number of hours, so we implemented the changes to testing,” she said.  

“The goal of the research is to see if these changes are worth continuing beyond the pandemic in Australia,” said Dr de Jersey. 

“We hope our formal review will confirm that outcomes for mothers and babies is as good as sending all pregnant woman for an oral glucose tolerance test. 

“These changes could save time for women and clinicians, as well as reduce costs associated with unnecessary testing.” 

The aim of the RBWH Foundation Coronavirus Action Fund research grants was to improve COVID-19 treatments and testing, and analyse unprecedented changes in the way ​RBWH delivered healthcare as a result of the pandemic.  

“We wanted to ensure that the Foundation’s COVID-19 grants covered a wide range of COVID-19 research areas,” said Ms Garske. 

“Some of the other research projects include the impact of life-support equipment on COVID-19 drugs, a new fast-response, low-cost COVID-19 test and an analysis of the length of time clinicians can wear PPE (Personal, Protective Equipment) without taking a break.”  

RBWH Foundation’s Coronavirus Action Fund was launched in March 2020 and has received community support ensuring world-leading RBWH clinical researchers, with their vast expertise, can join the global race against coronavirus.