A project undertaken by Dr Spillane during her PhD was an investigation into the role of thymectomy in the treatment of myasthenia gravis. A thymectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the thymus gland, sometimes due to the appearance of a thymoma (tumour specific to the thymus). This resulted in a publication in the Journal of Neurology in 2013. In the study, a number of historical cases involving thymectomy in MG patients between 1999 and 2011 were reviewed. The data and conclusions drawn from this review enabled identification of common patient characteristics for those who underwent thymectomy and the likelihood of improvement of MG symptoms following surgery. While the sample size of the study was relatively small, it was able to identify statistical outcomes that would benefit and inform patients and clinicians in future cases. Overall, it was reported that 34% of patients in the study achieved complete stable remission of their myasthenia.

Another project from Dr Spillane as part of her PhD studies was a review of treatment of acute severe exacerbations in the intensive care unit for myasthenia gravis patients. Similarly to the thymectomy investigation, Dr Spillane reviewed data from a cohort of patients admitted to a specialist neuro-ICU with acute exacerbations of MG over a twelve year period. Myasthenic crisis is one of the most serious complications of MG and occurs in around a fifth of patients during the lifetime of their disease. Therefore, it is important to gain perspective on the best treatment options and assess the current standard where possible. Through studying the patient records available, Dr Spillane was able to draw conclusions regarding the morbidity and mortality of acute exacerbations of MG. Within the cohort 8% of patients admitted died in the ICU. However, the study also concluded that specialised neurointensive care can result in a good long-term prognosis regardless of the onset of MG and that easy availability to specialised neurointensive care facilities is beneficial for patient management.

To read more about Dr Spillane’s continued research, click here to visit her Research Gate page.  

Past Research Projects