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ENT advances clinical research initiatives

Although considered a newer venture for the department, the research arm of the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery is well into advanced stages, collaborating in robust weekly meetings with many products ready for clinical trials initiatives. Houston Methodist also recently named the department’s first research fellow and research coordinator who is dedicated specifically to ENT initiatives.
“Our AI (artificial intelligence) augmented reality work in sleep and sinus surgery is really pushing the boundaries,” said faculty spokesman Omar Ahmed, MD, who specializes in Rhinology, Sleep and Skull base surgery. “We are helping develop several new products in detecting sleep apnea using AI algorithms.”
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Houston Methodist was a leader in the COVID-19 care in the massive Texas Medical Center, and the trajectory of that experience, the disease itself and the disease’s variants is key to many new research ideas. Also, the ENT department has a focus on population-based research projects to improve outcomes of endoscopic sinus surgery for chronic sinusitis patients. “Recently, we have engaged in first-of-its-kind research that incorporates big data from the pandemic and artificial intelligence in partnership with several innovative companies to bring these technologies into our specialty,” Dr. Ahmed added. “Much of our work and trials are collaborative because of our location in the Texas Medical Center.” “We are also very interested in the long-haul consequences of COVID,” he said, “And what we can do about it.” Dr. Ahmed said the Houston Methodist physicians and educators are excited to welcome Daniel Gorelik from George Washington University School of Medicine as the department’s first research assistant who is dedicated specifically to ENT concerns. “During my interview with the ENT department at Houston Methodist, I could tell the experience of the faculty and the innovation at the hospital was unparalleled,” said Mr. Gorelik, who moved to Houston this summer to begin his research fellowship at Houston Methodist. He is highly published and has focused his skills on robotic surgery, another area of Methodist expertise. Dr. Ahmed said ENT researchers are studying how to prevent hearing loss as well as rehabilitation from hearing loss. They also are testing new treatments for patients with obstructive sleep apnea as an alternative to CPAP machines that have been used for more than 40 years with few innovations. Other specific research underway in the Methodist Hospital Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery include:

Facial Plastic Surgery

  • A pilot study recently was completed to evaluate the sidedness of facial aging. This data was presented at the Combined Otolaryngology Spring the Combined Otolaryngology (COSM) Spring Meeting. A larger scale study is now being planned.
  • ENT researchers also are evaluating practice patterns related to the treatment of non-binary and transgender patients. This project is currently going through IRB.

Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery

  • The department researchers are collaboratively developing novel molecular probes for fluorescent illumination during cancer operations to improve the safety and effectiveness of cancer surgery. By illuminating nerves and other vital structures, we are working toward strategies that reduce the morbidity of our most common head and neck cancer treatments to improve outcomes for our survivors.
  • A multi-institutional trial soon will be up and running with regards to xerostomia and salivary stimulation with Houston Methodist as a possible site in collaboration with Rice University.

Laryngology research

  • National Institutes of Health-funded prospective randomized trial of voice rest compliance and outcomes after phonomicrosurgery for benign vocal lesions.
  • Large-scale retrospective review of the demographics, diagnoses and treatment patterns for 1,700 patients presenting with complaints of dysphonia to the Texas Voice Center at Methodist Hospital.
  • Multi-institutional study evaluating the correlation between MOCA and voice therapy outcomes in the aging population (primary site University of California San Francisco Parnassus Campus.) https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05187910?cond=moca+voice&draw=2&rank=1
  • Comparison of outcomes in patients with COVID on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) who either did or did not undergo tracheostomy placement.

Otology/Neurotology

  • Improving outcomes in cochlear implant surgery
  • Radiographic findings and correlations with various otologic pathologies

Rhinology and Sleep Surgery

  • The Rhintrac prospective randomized controlled trial for the treatment of chronic rhinitis has completed enrolling patients and one-year data for follow up is being published.
  • There are a series of projects focused on improving and modifying in-office based techniques to treat chronic rhinitis.
  • The department is participating in the prospective Osprey Clinical trial for the treatment of OSA using a hypoglossal nerve stimulator created Livanova.
  • We are also researching population-based studies evaluating outcomes of endoscopic sinus surgery for chronic sinusitis.
  • We are evaluating factors that affect COVID-19 related anosmia using the Methodist COVID-19 database.