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10,000th participant enrolled in major intensive care trial that could save thousands of lives

The UK-ROX intensive care trial has recruited its 10,000th participant

A recruitment milestone has been reached in a clinical trial which researchers hope could lead to improved survival rates in intensive care.

The NIHR-funded UK-ROX trial is aiming to enrol 16,500 people from almost 100 UK intensive care units (ICUs) to test whether giving a lower concentration of oxygen than usual to people on ventilators may be beneficial.

The study has now enrolled its 10,000th participant, at Aintree University Hospital, part of Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Each year, around 184,000 patients are admitted to NHS ICUs and over 30% require help with their breathing using a ventilator (breathing machine). Giving oxygen through the ventilator is an essential part of this treatment, however, it is not known how much should be given. Both too much, and too little, may cause harm.

The UK-ROX trial, which is being supported locally by the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula, is testing an approach known as ‘conservative oxygen therapy’, where a reduced oxygen saturation target is used in critically ill patients. If this is shown to reduce mortality rates compared to the current standard care, the study will recommend immediately changing clinical practice in ICUs throughout the NHS.

Daniel Martin, Professor of Perioperative and Intensive Care Medicine at the University of Plymouth and a Consultant at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Foundation Trust is Co-Chief Investigator for UK-ROX. He explained: “Oxygen is the most common treatment that we give to our patients on ICU yet we don’t really know how much oxygen to give to patients in order to optimise their recovery. In the past we assumed people needed more oxygen than usual when unwell, thinking oxygen couldn’t be harmful. However, we now know that giving too much oxygen to patients might cause harm.

“The aim of the study is to see if making relatively small adjustments to the amount of oxygen we give to patients can improve their survival. The overall difference this might make is relatively small, however, given how many patients we treat on ICUs every day in the UK, this adjustment has the potential to save thousands of lives.”

Professor Martin added: “Recruiting 10,000 participants is an amazing achievement and has only been possible as a result of the incredibly hard work that is going on at almost 100 ICUs around the country. Research and clinical teams have gone above and beyond, during very difficult times to recruit to this study. We are incredibly grateful to them.”

UK-ROX is sponsored by the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC).

To find out more about research in your area, visit the NIHR’s Be Part of Research website: