Dr Euan McCaughey


Senior Postdoctoral Fellow Early Career Research Fellow, NHMRC
Conjoint Lecturer in School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales

(02) 9399 1827

Dr Euan McCaughey is a biomedical engineer. His research interests lie in the way that medical devices can be used to improve the lives of those living with an illness or disability. He completed his PhD at the University of Glasgow in 2014, focusing on the use of Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation (Abdominal FES) to improve respiratory function after spinal cord injury. During this time he developed a number of novel stimulation protocols, performed the first study to investigate the use of Abdominal FES to assist ventilator weaning for patients with acute tetraplegia, and combined Abdominal FES with mechanical insufflation-exsufflation for this first time.

After spending two years conducting public health research at Macquarie Univeristy, he moved to NeuRA in 2017. During his current NHMRC Fellowship, Dr McCaughey is seeking to generate research evidence and technology that assists the clinical translation of Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation to improve respiratory function in a number of patient groups.

Euan is looking for Honours and PhD students for his current studies. Contact him for more details.

Projects Dr Euan McCaughey is currently involved with


Control of coughing and expiratory muscles in spinal cord injury

Respiratory complications are the major cause of death for people with spinal cord injuries. People with a high level spinal cord injury are 150 times more likely to die from pneumonia than the general population. This is because after high level spinal cord injury, people have a reduced ability to cough and to clear secretions from the lungs. The major group of muscles that produce a cough are the abdominal muscles. If the abdominal muscles are paralysed after spinal cord injury then the strength of the cough will be severely reduced. In our lab, we are looking at ways to improve cough in people with spinal cord injury by using surface functional electrical stimulation of the abdominal muscles. We have shown that this type of stimulation can improve cough significantly. We are now looking for ways to further improve cough through muscle training as well as ways to develop a portable stimulator that would allow independent activation of a cough.


Control of coughing and expiratory muscles in spinal cord injury

The effect of respiratory muscle training on respiratory health after spinal cord injury

After cervical spinal cord injury (SCI), the respiratory muscles are partly or completely paralysed. This has two major clinical consequences: a decreased ability to get air into the lungs and a decreased ability to cough and remove secretions. This results in a lifetime of recurrent respiratory tract infections (2/year/person) that often progress to pneumonia with frequent and extended hospital admissions. People with cervical SCI are 150 times more likely to die from respiratory complications than the general population, as many as 28% die within the first year after injury. For those that survive the first year, a cervical SCI has a lifetime cost of $9.5million, a large proportion of which is attributed to respiratory-related complications. A recent longitudinal study of people with cervical SCI showed that respiratory muscle weakness is associated with incidental pneumonia. Respiratory muscle weakness also causes dyspnoea (breathlessness) and sleep-disordered breathing, which is 4-10 times more prevalent in people with SCI than the able-bodied population. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify a simple and cost-effective treatment for respiratory muscles weakness to prevent respiratory complications after SCI, improve quality of life and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.

Our primary aim is to determine definitively the effectiveness of training on respiratory muscle strength, respiratory physiology and health outcomes. To do this we will conduct a randomised controlled trial 2 times bigger than the largest previous study, of respiratory muscle resistive load training in individuals with acute and chronic cervical SCI. The project will provide critical new knowledge about the efficacy of a simple and inexpensive respiratory muscle training regime, which can be applied immediately in the hospital and community, to minimise respiratory morbidity in people with SCI. This project also provides a unique opportunity to investigate other consequential effects of long-term respiratory muscle training that have never been studied in people with SCI. These include effects on cough efficacy, sleep-disordered breathing, breathlessness, respiratory morbidity, respiratory health and neural drive to the diaphragm, as well as quality of life.


The effect of respiratory muscle training on respiratory health after spinal cord injury


Martin Heroux

DR MARTIN HÉROUX Research officer

Peter Nickolls

DR PETER NICKOLLS Honorary Senior Research Officer : +612 9399 1013

DR ANNE BUTLER Research Officer


Claire Boswell-Ruys

DR CLAIRE BOSWELL-RUYS Postdoctoral fellow

DR RACHEL MCBAIN Postdoctoral fellow

DR BEN KWAN PhD student