Hamilton Health Sciences’ Heart Investigation Unit expanding to meet growing need for specialized cardiac care

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When Hamilton Health Sciences opens its new Heart Investigation Unit (HIU) at Hamilton General Hospital this spring, it will be one of the most sophisticated cardiac diagnostic (x-ray) and interventional cardiology centres in the country.

The HIU will merge all activities related to coronary angiograms and coronary angioplasties. These non-surgical procedures are called cardiac catheterization procedures because they involve a tube (catheter) that is inserted into an artery – typically in the leg – to investigate the functioning of the heart (coronary angiogram) and/or to open clogged arteries (coronary angioplasty).

The new HIU is the first of a two-phase initiative at Hamilton General Hospital to significantly expand and enhance cardiac care in the region. The second phase involves the construction of two new operating rooms scheduled to open late 2005. The new facilities will bring the total number of operating rooms dedicated to cardiac care to four.

The expanded space and facilities of the new HIU will allow for an estimated 23 per cent increase in cardiac catheterization activity and an improved ability to meet the growing demand for cardiac care in the central south and west Ontario region. In 2003-04, the Hamilton General Hospital site at Hamilton Health Sciences had 4,724 coronary angiographies, 1,764 angioplasties and 1,002 bypass surgeries completed.

Leslie Gauthier, clinical manager of the HIU, eagerly awaits her team’s new facility and the improvements it will bring. “The new HIU will offer patients a highly synchronized level of care,” said Gauthier. “Having all the heart investigation unit’s services centralized to one location will mean that patients will no longer have to be moved from unit to unit for their various treatments and stages of their hospital stay.”

The 16,000-square-foot HIU facility will feature four brand new cardiac catheterization laboratories – one more than the hospital’s current three, furnished with brand new, state-of-the-art equipment. Expanded patient facilities will include a 32-bed unit and a 45-person combined Operating Room/HIU waiting room. The HIU area will be staffed by a team of heart care specialists ranging from cardiologists and nurses to x-ray technologists and support staff. This team will provide a complete range of care for cardiac catheterization patients from pre-procedure care to recovery.

A distinctive feature of the new HIU will be its equipment. Each of the cardiac catheterization labs will be equipped with the latest and most up-to-date cardiac diagnostic equipment, as well as a new digital image storage system. This will replace the HIU’s current outdated equipment and 35 mm film facilities. The move to digital will improve the quality of images and, as a result, the physician’s ability to diagnose and treat patients. Digital technology will also revolutionize the way physicians share images. It will mean that they can send and view images on the computer – enabling referring physicians in the city or around the world to view images from Hamilton General Hospital immediately after they are taken.

Hamilton Health Sciences is a family of hospitals and a cancer centre serving more than 2.2 million residents of Hamilton and central west Ontario. The academic teaching hospital is the second largest hospital in Ontario and the regional centre for services for cardiac, trauma, stroke, neurosurgery, burns, pediatrics, high-risk obstetrics, cancer and orthopedics. Hamilton Health Sciences is committed to providing exemplary health care for the people and communities we serve and advancing excellence in education and health research.