The University of Alberta has one of the largest Cardiac Surgery Programs in Canada, performing over 2,500 cardiac surgical procedures annually. The program is located within the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and is amongst the largest programs in North America for congenital cardiac surgery, cardiothoracic transplantation and mechanical circulatory support.
The university has been Canada’s leader and innovator in cardiac surgery since the 1950s when it carried out the country’s first open heart operation. Its latest global breakthrough is Ex-Vivo Organ Support System (EVOSS) technology that is being developed and commercialized by cardiac researchers. This innovation may solve two of the biggest problems in organ transplantation: The limited number of healthy organs available and the short window of time to get a donated organ to a patient. EVOSS was developed by surgeon-scientists Darren Freed and Jayan Nagendran. A portable organ device replicates the way breathing expands and contracts the chest cavity, and ensures a constant supply of blood and oxygen to donated lungs, keeping them warm until transplantation. This is one of the division’s many innovative programs.
All cardiac surgical patient care needs are provided at the University of Alberta, including the treatment of coronary artery disease, valvular abnormalities, arrhythmias, congenital heart disease, heart and lung transplantation, and mechanical circulatory support. The division has also developed expertise in specialized fields, including minimally invasive valve surgery, surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation, complex aortic root reconstruction, including the valve sparing root replacement, and surgery of the thoracic aorta. Cardiac surgeons also provide sutureless aortic valve replacements and pacemaker-lead extractions using lasers.
The division remains a Western Canadian referral centre for many forms of complex cardiac care for both adult and pediatric patient populations. This includes referrals from the Western Canadian Children’s Heart Network.
Over the past 20 years, the Division of Cardiac Surgery has trained surgeons from over 20 different countries around the globe. Outreach cardiac surgery teams from the University of Alberta have provided support and training to various developing programs internationally over many years. These outreach programs are in various stages of development and include countries such as Kenya, Sudan, Ecuador, China and Columbia. The focus has been on improving the quality of care provided by on-site teams.
The division has a long history of training academic surgeons by high-volume exposure to state-of-the art cardiac care services. In collaboration with other organizations, the division provides a comprehensive and solid foundation for cardiac surgery training and research. The training program currently enrolls one resident per year. The vast majority of trainees complete either an M.Sc or PhD during their cardiac surgery training. The division also trains seven to nine international fellows every year from over 20 countries.
Facilities and Technology
The Alberta Cardiovascular and Stroke Research Centre (ABACUS) in the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, is a molecules-to-populations translational research facility. Heart patients taking part in studies and clinical trials advance medical understanding of cardiovascular disease, while benefiting from state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and breakthrough therapies. ABACUS also tracks the progress of heart and stroke patients and evaluates treatments and strategies.
At the institute’s newly developed Cardiovascular Research Centre (CVRC) new therapeutic strategies are developed to improve cardiac surgery outcomes. The CVRC contains a Therapeutics Facility for clinical research and a Cardiac Analysis Facility for biomedical research. It is within the heart institute and the new Health Research Innovation Facility at the University of Alberta.The Cardiac Surgery Program actively collaborates with two regional Invasive Cardiac Catheterization Programs at the Mazankowski Heart Institute and CK Hui Heart Centre. The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton is a world leader in complex cardiac care and surgery.
With a collaborative approach, the team of highly skilled cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, cardiac care professionals, researchers and educators are advancing the prevention, detection, treatment and study of cardiovascular disease. As the leading heart institute in Western Canada, the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute has the best and brightest healthcare team to care for the most complex and chronic cardiac patients. The institute has opened a new Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit.
Funding from the University Hospital Foundation for the $6.6 million Cardiac Hybrid operating room, enabled what used to be the impossible – cardiologists and surgeons
working together, on the same patient, in the same room, at the same time. The cardiovascular intensive care unit has also increased capacity to allow 200 more surgeries to be performed every year, and more specialized patient care than ever before.