News in brief: Neurologist takes on political boys club; Brain imaging reviews for GPs; Two GBS deaths reported with COVID-19 vaccine

17 Jan 2022

Neurologist takes on political boys club

Professor Monique Ryan

Paediatric neurologist Professor Monique Ryan is stepping away from her job as Director of Neurology at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne to run as an Independent candidate against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the traditional Liberal seat of Kooyong.

Professor Ryan says she is motivated to stand as an independent in response to widespread frustration over policies of both major parties on issues such as climate change, corruption and mistreatment of women.

“We feel a great sense of anxiety about climate change, dissatisfaction with the general demeanour of the government and we feel dissatisfied with their attitude to women, with their attitude to the issues that we see as important as a community,” she told The Age.

As a neurologist Professor Ryan is head of the multidisciplinary RCH Neuromuscular Clinic and the RCH Neuromuscular Research Unit, and has an interest in the care of children affected by muscular dystrophies, myopathies and neuropathies.

Professor Ryan is supported by the independent Voices movement co-founded by  Cathy McGowan, the former independent MP for the regional Victorian seat of Indi, and has already come under attack from PM Scott Morrison who accused her of being  part of a well-funded political campaign linked to Labor and the Greens.

Brain imaging reviews for GPs

A government program to discourage GPs from ordering inappropriate and unnecessary head imaging is being launched by NPS MedicineWise in 2022.

As part of its Practice Review series, 30,000 GPs will be sent feedback reports on their referral data for head MRI and CT scans and how this compares to best practice recommendations from the Australian and New Zealand Association of Neurologists (ANZAN).

In its Choosing Wisely recommendations, ANZAN advises that GPs do not perform imaging of the brain for non-acute primary headache disorders.

NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Kate Annear says the individualised GP data on MBS head CT and MRI requests is not being audited for regulatory purposes but aims to prompt practitioners to reflect on their own imaging referral practice.

“Head imaging is often requested to investigate headaches and seizures,” she says.

“Headaches in the primary care setting are often benign and head imaging is not usually required unless a patient presents with a red flag.

“However, neuroimaging is indicated for most new-onset seizures with MRI being the preferred imaging modality in non-emergency situations.

“It is important to remember that head imaging can identify incidental findings which may result in patient anxiety and unnecessary follow-up investigations,” she adds.

Two GBS deaths reported with COVID-19 vaccine

The TGA says there have been two deaths in Australia from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) following COVID-19 vaccination.

In its latest vaccine safety report it says that as of 6 January 2022 it had identified 11 reports of death linked to vaccination following the delivery of 42.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The deaths occurred after the first dose of Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), of which eight were thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) cases, two were linked to GBS and one was a case of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP).

The TGA emphasises that GBS following vaccination is rare and to date there have been 170 reports of suspected GBS occurring after vaccination with Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca). The expected time period for onset of GBS symptoms is two-42 days after vaccination.

“There are currently no identified risk factors for GBS. However, in the general population it is more common in people aged over 60 years,” it said.

Already a member?

Login to keep reading.

Email me a login link