Volume 5, No. 4 • Winter 1990

APSF Awards Three Research Grants at Annual Meeting

Jeffrey B. Cooper, Ph.D.

The APSF Committee on Scientific Evaluation this year reviewed twenty-five applications and awarded research grants totaling $105,000 to the top three proposals.

‘Smart’ Alarm to be Taught

Dr. Dwayne Westenskow of the Department of Anesthesiology, University of Utah, building upon his group’s past experience in developing “smart” alarms for anesthesia monitoring, was funded for a project entitled “Fault Detection and Alarm Generation During Anesthesia Using Neural Network Based Pattern Recognition.” New-al network theory is relatively new, but has promise for giving computers human-like performance in speech, image and pattern recognition.

In this work, a neural network will be taught to recognize patterns of change in the patient’s physiologic variables as a basis for generating alarms during anesthesia. The specific goal of the project is to train a network to recognize ten different patient related critical events. Training data will be generated using a breathing system/transducer array and the oil/water–r lung model created earlier by this research group. The expectation is that the alarm system will accurately identify 99% of the critical events which may occur during anesthesia.

Data Display Evaluated

Dr. Matthew Weinger of the University of California, San Diego will be studying “The Effect of Mode of Visual Display of Anesthesiologists’ Monitoring Performance. He will be collaborating with Dr. Carl Englund, who has extensive research experience in human factors m relationship to cognitive and physical performance. The principal hypothesis to be tested in their experiments is that the way in which clinical data are presented affects the ability of anesthesiologists to analyze and diagnose critical events.

A realistic simulated visa monitoring environment will be created us” actual anesthesia equipment. After controlling for training effects and establishing baseline performance anesthesiologist subjects, the effects on monitoring performance of three different display modes of an Ohmeda CD anesthesia machine will be ascertained. It is reasoned that the results of the project will assist in the improvement of designs of monitoring displays with particular application during stressful or high workload situations.

Difficult Air-way Prediction

Dr. Satwant Samra, of the Department of anesthesiology, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, will be addressing & issue of improving techniques for identifying the patient who will be difficult to intubate. In collaboration with Dr. F.C. Guinto, Professor of Radiology, Dr. Samra will study differences in anatomical de” of the upper airway, using magnetic resonance imaging and soft tissue radiography in surgical patients who present the problem of difficult intubation and compare them to controls who are matched in age and weight. The object is to compare the findings from MRI with those of soft tissue radiographs of the neck. The hypothesis is that patients would first be identified as potentially difficult for intubation according to Samsoon and Young’s modification of Mallampatti’s grading system. The investigators hope to identify details of soft tissue radiography that would then be useful for improving predictability of which patients would be difficult to intubate.

The research grants program will continue next year with the same deadlines and in the same fashion as previously (see announcement on page 1). One notable exception is that the award limit will be increased to $60,000.

This year, investigators whose applications were not selected for the second round of reviews were informed very quickly a mere eight weeks after the deadline for receipt of applications. During that period all 25 applications were reviewed by each member of the Committee The top sewn were considered in the second round of reviews and the final decision was made at the meeting of the Committee-, which was held as usual on the first day of refresher courses at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Following that meeting, a summary of the reviewers’ comments was sent to each principal investigator who had requested it.

The set of grant applications as in previous years, represents a broad range of ideas that the investigators connect with anesthesia patient safety. Many of the applications represent new ways of looking at existing problems or definitions of new areas that deserve attention. Unfortunately, many applications suffered from the same problems described in the APSF Grant Program Report last year (see APSF Newsletter Volume 4, No. 4, December, 1989). New investigators are encouraged to read that report to get a better idea of the types of topics that have been funded in the past and the kinds of flaws that have prevented applications from being approved.

Dr. Jeffrey B. Cooper is the Chairman of the APSF Committee on Scientific Evaluation. Reports of last year’s detailed report, which includes information on what grants have been funded and suggestions for creating a successful application can be obtained directly from him at the Department of Anesthesia, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114.