Physiotherapist to undertake research on breathing pattern disorder

Lizzie Grillo, specialist adult physiotherapist at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, has secured funding to undertake a doctoral fellowship on breathing pattern dysfunction (BPD), a condition which causes breathlessness and limits the day to day function of patients.

The fellowship forms part of the Integrated Clinical Academic (ICA) programme funded by Health Education England and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and supports the development of a career pathway for non-medical clinical academics.

Lizzies’ academic journey

In 2017 Lizzie was involved in the development of the Breathing Pattern Assessment Tool (BPAT) which helps provide an outcome measure for the evaluation of BPD.

Despite the BPAT being widely used clinically, further testing is needed to understand how reliable and accurate it is.

Lizzie therefore decided that she would need to undertake a PhD to research the BPAT. However, before embarking on a doctoral programme she applied for a Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship (PCAF) with the ICA programme, allowing her to focus on developing her research, clinical and leadership skills.

When nearing the completion of the PCAF in 2021, Lizzie applied for the next scheme in the ICA programme; the Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship (CDRF) which she successfully secured and will allow her to undertake a PhD alongside further professional development and clinical practice.

The research project

BPD is often undiagnosed bringing additional distress to those patients who do not know what is wrong with them. Symptoms are sometimes mis-attributed to respiratory disease and this can lead to treatments being given which patients do not need.

The disorder is present in around 10% of the general public and in up to 30% of people with asthma. More recently, it has proved to be a significant problem after COVID-19, with up to 30% of patients with long COVID suffering from BPD.

Lizzie’s research aims to evaluate different methods of assessing BPD, if the BPAT is a consistent and accurate method of recognising and assessing BPD and if it can be useful in monitoring the effects of treatment for BPD.

Alongside this, Lizzie also aims to understand the experiences of the BPAT amongst patients and clinicians.

Upon receiving the funding, Lizzie said:

“I am very proud and excited for this opportunity to develop as a clinical academic. Having recently completed an NIHR PCAF I can recognise the value of developing research skills and experience within a clinical setting.

“I am looking forward to developing my understanding of the assessment of Breathing Pattern Dysfunction within my PhD plans, alongside developing my clinical skills. I am grateful to Royal Brompton Hospital and Imperial College for supporting me in this endeavour.”

To find out more about this project please contact us.