Cerebrospinal Markers of Neuro Inflammation in the Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Katherine Bishara hard at work

This summer I worked in the Berger lab which is a clinical anesthesiology lab looking at the role of anesthesia during surgery in impaired cognitive abilities after waking up. These post-operative cognitive dysfunctions (POCD) occur most often in the elderly after surgery and are usually short-lived as they go away within a few months. However, when these dysfunctions persist they become what is known as post-operative cognitive delirium and can severely affect quality of life. Our project looks at the possible correlations between specific inflammatory markers in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients undergoing surgery and cognitive outcome. 

A large portion of the work for this project included recruitment of patients to the study. The study is a four year study which requires 50 patients per year. Recruitment involved calling patients marked for having surgery in the near future that were above 60 years old. From there, exclusion criteria were used to exclude patients for calling and then patients were told on the phone of the four parts of the study. They would have to undergo two lumbar punctures before and after the surgery to collect CSF and blood draw, EEG recording during the surgery, fMRI of the brain before and after surgery, and cognitive testing before surgery and at multiple timepoints after surgery. Each part of the study was collected and analyzed by different departments that collaborated with the Berger lab. When recruiting patients, they would have to be informed of the risks, the time commitment, and the benefits of participating. If the patient agreed, we would enroll them in the study and communicate with the research coordinator on their availability for participation in the study. 

I also worked on the data analysis side of the project. I entered the cognitive data from the study to be analyzed by computer software as well as helping to improve that software. I coordinated with the research coordinators, physicians involved with the study, and other interns and research assistants. I was able to shadow in the clinic and the OR multiple times during the summer.

I learned about the intricacies of clinical research, the amount of people, effort, and collaboration it takes for a study to run smoothly, and the process of submitting grants.

As this study is to take several years, no results were acquired from this summer of work so no analysis or conclusions were drawn.