Robotics, 3-D imaging, and new operating rooms aim to address soaring demand for critical cardiac care

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute was out of space and out of time as it struggled to deal with the increased need for cardiac care with an aging population. It needed to grow and right away. That sparked an ambitious expansion, featuring a brand new surgical tower that opened on March 23.

The Heart Institute’s new critical care facility adds more than 145,000 sq. ft., including five operating rooms (one hybrid operating room and one shelled-in for future use); nine catheterization and electrophysiology laboratories; and a surgical critical care unit with 27 beds.

“This is the most significant expansion in the history of the Heart Institute,” says Dr. Thierry Mesana, president and CEO. “Our new facility will not only reinforce our cardiovascular care, research, and training capacities, but it will also ensure our patients continue to receive world-class care, from an extraordinary team evolving in a state-of-the-art environment. This is our promise.”

When the University of Ottawa Heart Institute opened more than 40 years ago, they could not have anticipated the growing demand for critical cardiac care. In the 2016 Report on the Health of Canadians from the Heart & Stroke Foundation, research shows heart failure is growing at an alarming rate, with one-million people living with the disease and 50,000 more being diagnosed each year. But will improved diagnostic tools and better disease management, many Canadians are living longer.

The Heart Institute will use some of the most innovative technological advancements in modern medicine, including the da Vinci® Surgical System, which facilitates complex surgical procedures that are less invasive for patients and require shorter recovery periods. Da Vinci uses state-of-the-art robotics to give surgeons access through small incisions. It has groundbreaking features, too, including a magnified vision system, which allows for a 3D HD view inside the body.

Robotics are the future for cardiac surgery

Dr. Marc Ruel, the Heart Institute’s head of Cardiac Surgery, says da Vinci will be a game changer within the realms of bypass surgery and mitral valve surgery: “With da Vinci, we believe we will be able to provide innovative, less invasive, and overall better procedures for our patients with much less need for recovery time, and with durable benefits.”

Life-saving suites will also feature Azurion Image Guided Therapy equipment, allowing clinical teams to confidently perform a wide routine of complex procedures. It represents the largest installation of its kind in the world. Azurion is a next generation image-guided therapy platform with a state-of-the-art ergonomic design and touch-screen intuitive user interface, allowing clinicians to perform a wide range of routine and complex procedures in the cardiac interventional labs.

With the estimated $220-million expansion, the Heart Institute is better poised to meet demand with cutting-edge equipment, new “cath labs,” where angiograms are done and stents are inserted to open blocked arteries, as well as new electrophysiology (EP) labs to evaluate abnormal electrocardiograms and treat arrhythmias. The new facility will also promote better post-surgery care.