Patient-centred research making everyday life better

Helen Keen stands in a hospital corridor
Adjunct Professor Helen Keen
August 15, 2020

Most people who attend the Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) Rheumatology Department have been referred by their GP after experiencing pain that affects their ability to cope with every day activities.

Head of Rheumatology at FSH, Helen Keen, is leading a raft of research projects aimed at helping to diagnose and treat those patients.

“Making things better for my patients and the wider community is what drives our research,” Dr Keen said.

One of Dr Keen’s projects looks into the cause and treatment of giant-celled arteritis, a condition with symptoms including head, neck, tongue and jaw pain that can result in blood vessel damage and strokes.

Giant-celled arteritis causes blindness in 37 per cent of those who have it.

A patient Dr Keen treated had visited a dentist, had CT scans of his sinuses, and been admitted to hospital with a suspected infection before being referred to the Rheumatology Unit.

“When he finally got to us and we could help him he told me, “I feel better than God,” Dr Keen said.

The team is also participating in pharmaceutical trials, because the treatment for giant-celled arteritis usually includes steroids which can be toxic.

“Treatment is an area of interest worldwide – we need better therapies,” Dr Keen said.

With her rheumatology research spanning 20 years, her work has focused on the areas of gout, osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions, and includes a PhD in the United Kingdom before she started at FSH in 2009.

Currently working with a team of doctors, research coordinators, PhD and Masters students Dr Keen’s patient-centred research is undertaken in a number of metropolitan clinics, along with some laboratory work.

She is also working on national projects with the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Osteoarthritis Clinical Trials Group.

Read more about research conducted across South Metropolitan Health Service in its 2019 Research Report (external PDF 4.1MB).

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