Growth of cardiology care responds to the burden of health

“From around 900 BCE (before the Common Era) to the early 20th century, life expectancy increased by a decade, from about 33 to 43 years of age,” says Dr. Jacques Genest, McGill University Heath Centre (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 markedly 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.

“As in any good medical institution our division of cardiology has grown over the years to reflect this burden of health,” says Dr. Genest. 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 more closely than ever before to provide better therapies and therefore better patient care.

The MUHC is also putting an infrastructure in place to move Cardiovascular Sciences to the new MUHC facility at the Glen Site ( Over the past few years, more than $34 million have been injected into the Cardiovascular Sciences Program, which includes the development of new cardiology intensive care units at both the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) and Montreal General Hospital (MGH) sites, completely 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.”