Something in the water at the GMRI?

Frederica Steiner

Frederica Steiner

There must be something in the water at the GMRI – Frederica Steiner is the second summer student to have the research she conducted at the Institute recently published in prestigious medical journals.

Frederica (23) is in her final year studying medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.

She has had two papers published, one in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery and the other in the ANZ Journal of Surgery.

Her papers assess the effects of treating venous malformation (VM), a type of vascular birthmark, with alcohol injections or surgery.

Frederica describes VM in layperson’s language as a condition in which the affected veins have thinner and weaker walls that ‘blow out’ and cause blood to pool rather than flow efficiently. The condition, affecting one percent of the population, causes disfigurement, pain and loss of function.

One treatment option is to inject pure alcohol directly into the VM, causing the affected veins to scar-up and close. Another option is surgery, which generally aims to remove the entire VM.

Frederica’s research found both treatments are beneficial, providing positive quality of life outcomes and patient satisfaction levels.

They both reduce pain, swelling and skin discolouration, while generating a limited number of complications.

“My research indicates that the preferred treatment option depends on the specifics of the case, and to some degree on patient preference,” she says.

To complete her research, Frederica surveyed 50 patients who underwent surgery, and 54 patients who received alcohol injections between 1996 and 2011.

She designed the survey questionnaire herself and contacted the patients over the summer of 2011-2012 to have them complete it. In some cases she interviewed the patients by phone.

Frederica was offered the summer studentship at the GMRI after hearing Dr Swee Tan speaking at a university presentation.

She contacted Dr Tan and asked if she could do research for him, and was subsequently given the VM research assignment.

How does she feel about being published? “A bit of relief actually,” she says.

“I am really happy to be published. It took a lot of effort and I’m proud of what I have achieved.

“Without Dr Tan’s help this wouldn’t have happened and I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity.”

Aspiring to be a paediatrician and looking forward to graduating later this year, Frederica was supervised during her summer studentship by Dr Tan and Dr Trevor FitzJohn of the Centre for the Study and Treatment of Vascular Birthmarks, based at Hutt Hospital.

One of the cases in Frederica’s paper – a 6-year old girl with a venous malformation on her face before (left) and after (right) alcohol injections.

One of the cases in Frederica’s paper – a 6-year old girl with a venous malformation on her face before (left) and after (right) alcohol injections.