While COVID dominates out thoughts, people still become ill with serious Neurological disorders. If people have a seizure, or seizures are not controlled, it is important that they still get investigated and treated in the best way possible, in a timely manner and in a safe environment. Delays can have serious long-term consequences.
The Australian Government Department of Health COVID-19 guidelines which have been adopted by the Austin Health Human Research Ethics Committee, have been implemented by the AEP.
The guidelines are designed to limit exposure of participants, researchers or staff to infectious agents. The AEP have implemented necessary changes to methodology to reduce face to face interaction where possible. All baseline interviews and neuropsychological testing has been moved to telehealth appointments. Our experience to date has been very positive. This change ensures maximum safety without compromising the study protocol in any way.
The MRI suite at the Florey Institute has also introduced changes to operating procedures around frequency of scan sessions, confirming participants’ travel history and that they are symptom free prior to attending appointments, staff using personal protective equipment, enforcing social distancing guidelines and increasing already rigorous cleaning schedules. MRI scans are considered essential to diagnosis of epilepsy and are continuing to be used in standard clinical care at hospitals. The controlled Florey research scanner environment with these extra measures in place presents no increased risk to participants to undergo a scan.
The AEP pilot study continues to recruit participants and is providing advanced testing, interpretation and analysis to guide precise diagnosis and treatment plans for participants experiencing first seizure or living with epilepsy. The AEP pilot project provides world class diagnostic information with rigorous awareness of safety and social distancing. The integration of research procedures and clinical care is an integral part of the AEP.
The AEP recognises the situation around COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and we will be actively responding to changing circumstances with participant, researcher and staff safety as our priority.