New cardiac CT scan first in Canada

By Ann Gibbon

A new model of care for cardiac patients at St. Paul’s Hospital has the potential to reduce heart imaging wait times, ease Emergency Department congestion and lower the number of unnecessary hospital admissions.

At the centre of the new approach is a new dedicated cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan, the first of its kind in Canada.

The machine will be the key part of a stand-alone Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic that will benefit patients with earlier prevention and life-saving treatment.

“The Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic has the potential to change the course of this disease by offering prevention and early intervention in a personalized fashion,” says Dr. Jonathon Leipsic, chair of Providence Health Care’s Department of Radiology. It is partnering with St. Paul’s Cardiology Department in this new type of care, with funding from St. Paul’s Foundation.

The clinic would open next year and will receive referrals from St. Paul’s Emergency Department, the City Centre Urgent Primary Care Clinic (UPCC) in Vancouver’s West End and from general practitioners.  It will be staffed with specially trained cardiac CT technicians and nurses.

The dedicated cardiac CT is currently at St. Paul’s where its scans are performed on about 25 patients a day, freeing up time on the hospital’s other general purpose CT scans for other patients.

The cardiac scan is smaller, easier to use and lighter than full-body scans because it diagnoses only the heart. It also offers:

  • Sharper, crisper images that can provide greater direction on the next step of care.
  • Similar or lower radiation doses than general-purpose scans.

Patients who would be diagnosed with the cardiac scan will be stable and have symptoms that include chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. Patients with valve disease will also benefit.

The concept of a rapid access chest pain clinic, supported by cardiac CT scanning, has proven highly effective in the United Kingdom by enabling a more specific diagnosis of coronary artery disease. As well, it will help provide earlier diagnosis to patients who might otherwise end up in the ED due to referral wait times by specialists.

“If the cardiac CT scan is negative, it means the patient has an excellent prognosis with a very low cardiac-event rate for many years,” says Dr. Leipsic.

The chest pain clinic will have the capacity to care for about 2,500 cardiac patients a year.



Ann Gibbon is a Senior Communications Specialist at Providence Health Care, Vancouver.