Perinatal Research Centre

The Perinatal Research Centre first opened at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in 1992 as an initiative of the RBWH Foundation. Since then, it has established itself as Australia’s premier research centre for pre-term births, focusing on improving the survival rate of premature and seriously ill babies and the quality of life for both the baby and mother.

The centre conducts research into the causes behind premature labour and delivery and through the discoveries it aims to develop prevention methods and help reduce complications associated with premature birth.

As a result of the work carried out at the Perinatal Research Centre and the hospital’s Grantley Stable Neonatal Unit, 85% of babies born 12 weeks premature now survive.

The centre’s current focus is testing a new protocol to provide an effective antiepileptic treatment for neonatal seizures in the clinical setting in order reduce brain injury and improve long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes.

All babies, whether premature or full-term, are at risk of brain injury and these injuries can vary in severity – some result in death while others may cause serious or lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness or blindness. Other injuries can cause more common developmental delays and learning disabilities.

This is just a sample of some of the research at the PRC:

Seizure Prevention in Newborns

Seizures are more common in the newborn period than at any other time in life and are associated with significant risk of morbidity and mortality. As many as 5 per 1000 newborns are at risk of seizures however the true incidence is likely to be higher. Current antiepileptic treatments for neonatal seizures are relatively ineffective with first-line treatment effective in fewer than 50% of cases. Effective treatment of neonatal seizures is an urgent health priority and is fundamental to reducing brain injury and improving long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes. This project is testing a new protocol to provide an effective antiepileptic treatment for neonatal seizures in the clinical setting.

Signal Processing Research

The PRC is proud to be at the forefront of technology helping to advance good outcomes for all newborn babies. The PRC lead a consortium in 2009 to acquire the southern hemisphere’s first Neonatal Compatible MRI Incubator. This million dollar piece of equipment has allowed both doctors and researchers to safely image the brains of both preterm and term babies, while they sleep peacefully through the procedure. The incredible images acquired are being combined with state-of-the-art EEG analysis techniques to identify parts of the brain that are vulnerable to damage during development. This international project is in collaboration with researchers at the University of Qatar and is making great advances in producing a ‘wiring map’ of the developing brain.