Dietitian awarded funding for paediatric research

26 June 2018

Amy Calvert, a highly specialised dietitian in paediatric cardiology, has been awarded funding by the Paediatric Intensive Care Society (PICS) for her research into chylothorax, a condition characterised by the build-up of fluid (chyle) in the lungs causing breathing difficulties, which affects some children after heart or lung surgery.

Under current guidelines, chylothorax is managed by feeding children a special 'fat free' diet for a period of time, which specifically restricts a particular type of dietary fat called long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). 

This diet restriction can be a problem for new-borns and infants as breast milk, which is advocated as the best source of nutrition, contains high levels of LCT. The current alternative for infants suffering from chylothorax is a special milk formula that has no LCT. However, this alternative is sometimes not taken well by infants due to its taste. It is also expensive.

Amy’s research proposes to remove LCT from breastmilk using a method called centrifugation, a process by which solid-liquid mixtures are spun at high speeds separating out the different components into layers. The layer containing LCT will be removed and this 'skimmed' breast milk would then be given to the infant.

Amy proposes that using this skimmed breastmilk will be as effective in managing chylothorax as using low-LCT formula, and her research aims to compare the effects in a small pilot trial. 

Her trial will determine whether there is any difference in growth between infants on the “skimmed” breastmilk versus those on the special milk formula. The research will measure and compare factors such as how long it takes for the chylothorax to clear up and length of hospital stay.

Laura Henderson, research development manager at the Trust, is pleased to see clinical staff venturing into research and carrying out their own research. She said;

“This PICS award allows Amy to purchase essential lab equipment, which would not be possible without this funding. Amy will receive committed and dedicated support from the multidisciplinary paediatric intensive care unit (ICU) team. 

'We wish her every success in recruiting to this important study which gives mothers the opportunity to provide breastmilk to their new-borns while they recover from invasive surgery” 

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