An agile network to improve care for critically ill patients and save lives

Lead researcher: Professor Alistair Nichol, University College Dublin (UCD)

The problem:

Many aspects of critical care remain uncertain. Improving this care would make a big difference to critically ill patients in intensive care. National and international efforts and infrastructures are required in order to carry out such studies with sufficient numbers of patients to evaluate new treatments.


The project:

The HRB provided support for an Irish hub, the Irish Critical-Care Clinical Trials Network (ICC-CTN) – a group of clinicians, nurses and scientists working to improve patient care – to enable them to carry out studies in intensive care, often as part of large international studies. 


The outcomes:

  1. A clinical research hub was established at UCD to coordinate national and international clinical trials in intensive care and critical care medicine.
  2. Irish patients have been able to take part in major international clinical trials and studies with Irish leadership, including:
  • Studies on lung ventilation that are now informing larger international studies on how best to care for lungs in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a complication of pneumonia.
  • The TRANSFUSE study, which showed that shelf life can safely be extended for blood products. This discovery is now relieving pressure on blood supplies for transfusions around the world.
  • The PEPTIC study, which found that patients in intensive care do better when they receive one type of stomach acid-lowering medication compared to another.
  • Trials of several treatments for COVID-19 identified treatments that are beneficial, ineffective or harmful for patients.
  • The results of these and other studies involving the Irish Critical Care-Clinical Trials Network have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Professor Alistair Nichol, Chair of Critical Care Medicine, UCD and the Director of the Irish Critical Care-Clinical Trials Network, says:

“What the HRB funding enabled was our ability to ask and answer questions that make a difference to patients in critical and intensive care. Because we were able to build the practical support of the research hub and the connections with experts in Ireland and around the world, thousands of patients in Ireland took part in studies that resulted not only in improved care to them but lasting impact for patients around the world.”

An agile network to improve care for critically ill patients and save lives is part of a wider collection of success stories across four themes from this year's annual Health Research in Action.

Download the full Health Research in Action publication (549 kB).

<- Return to main Health Research in Action webpage