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Trauma, burns and critical care

COVID-19 information

Trauma, burns and critical care are currently recruiting into our broad research portfolio.

The Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre (SRMRC) team supports trauma, burns and critical care research. The collaboration is based on the three specialties' shared clinical pathway and the requirement to establish a 24/7 research nurse delivery team.

The team name was inherited from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) SRMRC – the first national trauma research centre – established at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) in 2011.

The NIHR SRMRC is a partnership between the University of Birmingham (UoB), University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) and the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM).

The centre is jointly funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Its mission is to translate lessons learnt from the military to civilian practice and vice versa.

The NIHR SRMRC is located next to the Major Trauma Service (MTS) at QEHB, meaning trauma patients can be recruited to research trials quickly with strong links to excellent clinical care.

On average we support up to 30 trials, recruiting on average 500 patients per year.


Trauma is led by Professor Tony Belli who is Director of the NIHR SRMRC and Professor of Trauma Neurosurgery at UHB.

Professor Belli heads the neurotrauma research team that carries out research on traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. His research interests are in neurobiochemistry and neuromonitoring of acute brain injuries. Working with cerebral microdialysis, or the monitoring of brain tissue while a patient is in critical care, he has focused his research on early markers of tissue damage and on the prevention of secondary injury after trauma and subarachnoid haemorrhage, a rare kind of stroke.

Common conditions and trial topics

Trials commonly focus on traumatic brain injury (including the RECOS study, looking at repetitive concussion in sports) and bone fractures.

Most patients will be recruited into trauma trials before they arrive at hospital, while in A&E or while in critical care. This will be after a trauma incident, such as a road traffic accident or knife-related injury.


The Burns team is led by Professor Naiem Moiemen, who is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at UHB and Director of the Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research (CfCWR).

The SFF-CfCWR is a sister programme to the NIHR SRMRC, which is also based at QEHB. The centre was created in partnership with:

  • UHB
  • UoB
  • Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) at the University of the West of England
  • CASEVAC injured veterans club

The centre’s main aim is to reduce and eventually eradicate the impact of scarring and related problems among Armed Forces personnel who sustain critical injuries during their deployment, as well as civilians injured in conflict or terrorism incidents.

The centre supports a nationally relevant programme of biological and clinical research under three strategic themes:

  1. Acute wound care and diagnosis
  2. Biology of scarring
  3. Life-long scar impact, revision and rehabilitation

Within the SRMRC, Professor Moiemen leads on the AceticA and SiFTi-2 trials, and within CfCWR, the SMOOTH and DeScar studies.

Common conditions and trial topics

Most patients will be recruited into burns trials while in A&E, the Burns Unit or Critical Care. This is usually following an incident such as a burn injury or scald.

One of the key trials within Burns is SiFTi-2. This is designed to look in-depth at what happens after people sustain a large burn in order to develop novel tests to identify patients who are likely to develop sepsis.

Critical care

Critical care specialists are dedicated to monitoring and caring for patients with life-threatening conditions. Their expertise supports patients day-to-day, alongside other treatments such as surgery or antibiotics. They do this by using drugs and machines that are not available on normal wards.

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) has a higher staff-to-patient ratio than other wards. Patients are closely monitored, often having a nurse dedicated to their care 24/7.

In an environment with extra staff, machines and treatments, not only does the ICU provide an ideal place to support studies into new treatments and techniques, but also allows studies into human factors and organisation – all focused on improving patient care.

The research interests in the ICU are wide-ranging and include:

  • healthcare organisation
  • antibiotics stewardship
  • development of monitoring
  • delirium
  • rehabilitation
  • analysis of large datasets
  • studies of ventilation
  • brain injury
  • improving analgesia
  • the gut microbiome
  • acute kidney injury
  • septic shock
  • inflammation and aging

This team is led by Dr Tony Whitehouse who is a Critical Care Consultant and Anaesthetist based at QEHB. He is lead for Critical Care Research and Chief Investigator for the NIHR-funded STRESS-L study. He is principal investigator (trial lead) for a number of other studies.

Common conditions and trial topics

ICU specialises in managing patients with severe infections. These can lead to sepsis, septic shock and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Major surgery can also cause a syndrome similar to sepsis, and the degree of tissue damage caused when a cancer is removed or after an organ transplant can cause a bad immune response. Our research aims to understand these responses and the best ways to treat them.

Contact information

The team lead for trauma, burns and critical care is Dr Karen Piper.

Last reviewed: 27 April 2021