Growth of cardiology care responds to the burden of health
“Our most important task,” says Dr. Jacques Genest, MUHC director of Cardiology, “will be to relentlessly apply the lessons we have learned from decades of research and clinical care as we move into the future.”
“From around 900 BC to the early 1900s, human life expectancy only increased by a decade, from about 33 to 43 years of age,” says Dr. Jacques Genest, MUHC director of Cardiology. “In the past century we have nearly doubled this age.”
Diseases of pestilence, malnutrition, war and famine, have not been completely eradicated but they have been diminished. The result is that more humans are living into adulthood and are now being exposed to chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease – the number one cause of death in Canada.
“Some of the major risks for cardiovascular disease are weight gain, diabetes, and complications that rise from this, including high blood pressure and cholesterol abnormalities,” says Dr. Genest. “So we are living longer but this means we are now dealing with an older generation who come to us with health complications. As in any good medical institution our Division of Cardiology has grown over the years to reflect this burden of health.”
According to Dr. Genest, there has always been a Division of Cardiology at the MUHC. In the past 30 years, the division has become much more specialized, with the advent of interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, congenital heart disease, advanced heart failure, and improvements in prevention and imaging. In the last decade, the team has also grown exponentially. Eleven new cardiologists have been brought on board, as well as many more nurses and technologists. Research and clinical care are also working closer than ever before to provide better therapies and therefore better patient care.
MUHC Cardiovascular Sciences Program providing excellence in care over entire lifespan
At the MUHC a newly-developed program is taking action against heart failure: when a person presents with an acute heart attack and he/she is transferred to the MUHC in 30 to 40 minutes the damaged artery is opened. “This requires a chain of care that includes referring physicians, Urgences-Santé, the Emergency Department, the transport people, rapid diagnosis and teams available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” says Dr. Jacques Genest, MUHC director of Cardiology. “As we evolve, we keep refining our technique. The goal is to reach perfection.”
Cardiology at the MUHC has grown immensely over the years. “We have progressed from a Cardiac Division to a Cardiovascular Sciences Program that groups vascular and cardiac surgeons and cardiologists together,” says Dr. Genest.
The MUHC is also putting infrastructure in place to move Cardiovascular Sciences to the new MUHC facility at the Glen Campus (www.muhc.ca/construction). Over the past few years, more than $34 million have been injected into the Cardiovascular Sciences Program, which includes development of new cardiology intensive care units at both the RVH and MGH sites, and new catheterization laboratories, including a state-of-the-art procedure room consisting of biplane cardiac catheterization equipment, and the implementation of interventional electrophysiology with another state-of-the-art lab at the MGH site.
Many points of excellence can be found in highly specific fields: the heart failure program is one of the most active programs in the country and the leader in artificial heart implantation; the transplant group is an integrated medical, surgical and nursing unit that offers the best care possible for patients whose life expectancy is extremely short; and on the newer side, artificial hearts are offered as destination therapy, extending the life of many patients. “Our ultimate aim, always, is to provide a centre of excellence in cardiovascular diseases that covers the entire lifespan,” says Dr. Genest. “I think we are there and with every passing day we get even better.”