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Cardiopulmonary research group

Dr Margot Skinner leads a team of graduate research students working in the area of Cardiopulmonary Research. 

We talked to her about her interests in the area and the work of her students.

What sparked your interest in this area of research?

As a student I always really enjoyed the hospital inpatient placements and spent the majority of my time as a physiotherapist in clinical practice working in Intensive Care.

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Dr Margot Skinner (second left) and her research team members Emily Grey, Sarah Rhodes and Suranga Dassanayake

So it was a natural progression when I took on post graduate study to focus the research on people with conditions related to cardiovascular and pulmonary pathology.

I recall giving a presentation at a national physiotherapy conference in the early 1980’s titled To be upright is normal. The focus of the presentation was about using a tilt table to assist with early mobility for patients in ICU.

It was hard to get buy-in from colleagues at the time but now early mobility is advocated and accepted in ICU.

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Why is this physiotherapy research important?

Diseases of lifestyle and associated conditions are strongly linked to cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions and physiotherapist have a huge role to play in both prevention and reducing risk as well as optimising physical rehabilitation of this group of the population.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition that is often under-diagnosed and untreated yet it has a direct association with cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease, stroke and hypertension.

Research currently being undertaken by the team addresses all these areas, with a particular emphasis on physical rehabilitation.

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What is your research team's vision?

Sarah Rhodes is undertaking a PhD investigating whether physical activity intervention and/or text messaging improve functional exercise capacity and self-efficacy in adults with OSA.

Not everyone is available or willing to attend group exercise sessions so the motivational texting will be helpful in determining whether this method assists with compliance with activity and can be used for those living in rural areas.

Suranga Dassanayake is also undertaking PhD level research with adults with OSA but his study will focus more on the risk of OSA in adults with resistant hypertension i.e. those who are already on optimal medication but where blood pressure remains high.

OSA is not necessarily investigated in this population group and low levels of physical activity are often present in people with OSA, so individual programmes of activity may have a positive outcome for this group.

Emily Gray is undertaking a Master of Physiotherapy and is particularly interested in investigating the barriers and facilitators to physical activity that adults experience in the first three months following heart surgery for blockages in the arteries.

Not a lot is known about actual levels of activity in this population group and it may be that exercise prescriptions on discharge from hospital should be more individually targeted.

As diseases of lifestyle are the greatest causes of global mortality there is a wealth of opportunities for physiotherapists to undertake research into conditions that impact on the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems and are focused around physical rehabilitation.


You can read more about Dr Skinner and her work here

To learn more about cardiopulmonary research at Otago contact: margot.skinner@otago.ac.nz

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