Notre Dame and Westfund to provide free health checks and save lives in Lithgow

18 February 2014

The University of Notre Dame Australia is calling for residents in the Lithgow region to participate in a free study which will help to identify members of the community who may be at risk of malignant hyperthermia (MH).

Malignant hyperthermia is an inherited condition that, if not recognised, can lead to death if the patient is given an inappropriate anaesthetic. Approximately 160 members of an extended family in Lithgow are affected by this condition – one of the highest rates in the world.

"We are asking members of the community who think they may be related to someone with the condition to contact us and see if they require further testing, which will be free of charge thanks to our partnership with Westfund," Associate Professor John Dearin, Head of Notre Dame's Rural Clinical School, Lithgow says.

The University, in collaboration with Professor Allen from Harvard University and academics from the Malignant Hyperthermia Unit at the Children's Hospital Westmead, have developed an investigative study which will use genetic screening. The aim is to notify those affected so that they can take the necessary precautions when undergoing surgery.

The study will involve a simple blood test to look for a possible genetic mutation. A small day procedure may be required in some cases to allow for a definitive result to be obtained. The tests will be at no cost to those who participate.

In August 2012, Professor Paul Allen, a world-leading MH researcher from Harvard University, visited Lithgow to present a community lecture on the issue. The community then reached out to Notre Dame to help identify people who may be at risk.

The project will be supported by Westfund Health, a significant regional private health insurance provider which began in Lithgow over 80 years ago.

"We are delighted that we are able to help support this important global study that will help save lives in our own community" Grahame Danaher, Managing Director of Westfund Health says.

Those interested in participating in the study can contact the University on (02) 82044158 or by email

Hannah Guilfoyle: Tel (02) 8204 4141;