New CT scanner promises better
cardiac care

Machine first of its kind in Manitoba

Major donors Russ and Edna Edwards with Albert El Tassi, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation Cardiac CT Scanner Campaign Chair and Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald
Major donors Russ and Edna Edwards with Albert El Tassi, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation Cardiac CT Scanner Campaign Chair and Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald.

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Monday June 13, 2011

The acquisition of a new CT scanner that enables cardiologists to view live 3D images of the heart as they seek out coronary blockages is being hailed as a major advancement in care for heart attack patients in Manitoba.

The province today announced $2 million in funding for the purchase of the new CT scanner, an amount matched by the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, for a total of $4 million towards the installation and operation of the machine.

Dr. Alan Menkis, Medical Director of the Winnipeg Health Region's Cardiac Sciences Program at St. Boniface Hospital, said the new scanner will be the first in Manitoba with the ability to take detailed digital images of blockages in coronary arteries.

"This new technology will allow cardiologists to accommodate the increasing demand for emergency CT scans. It will allow some patients to have a less invasive procedure who would otherwise need heart catheterization," Menkis said during a press conference at the I.H. Asper Clinical Research Institute, where the CT scanner will be housed.

Currently, cardiac patients undergo a procedure called a catheter angiogram, which is a special X-ray of the heart. A tube called a catheter is put in an artery in the groin area or sometimes the upper arm or wrist. Once the end of the tube is in the heart, X-ray dye is used to take pictures of the heart.

The new high-speed CT scanner will follow the path of dye injected into a patient, without requiring any incision, allowing cardiologists and radiologists to view an image of the heart when it is both relaxed and contracted.

This fraction of a second image capture enables the physician to assess the coronary arterial anatomy, evaluate patients with new-onset heart failure, evaluate cardiac masses, and map pulmonary veins prior to a potential catheter ablation.

"Fifteen invasive catheter angiograms are performed at St. Boniface Hospital each day. Those procedures require at least three hours to perform," said Menkis. "A cardiac CT can be done in less than one hour. The cardiac CT will allow cardiologists to see 2D or 3D images of the muscles of the heart, while they are in action."

The advantages of performing a cardiac CT using a high-speed CT scanner are two-fold - it reduces the risk of complications such as infection present doing a traditional invasive catheter angiogram and reduces the CT wait times at St. Boniface Hospital.

Réal Cloutier, Chief Operating Officer for the Winnipeg Health Region, noted that St. Boniface Hospital has become the centre of cardiac excellence in Manitoba.

"This dedicated cardiac CT scanner has a long list of clinical and research applications that will further improve cardiac services," said Cloutier.

Also on hand at the announcement were Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald, Dr. Michel Tetrault, President and CEO of St. Boniface Hospital, Charles LaFlèche, President and CEO of the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, Albert El Tassi, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation Cardiac CT Scanner Campaign Chair and donors Russ and Edna Edwards, of the Westman Group of Companies.

"This partnership with the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation to invest in a new cardiac CT scanner will bring even better and faster care for Manitobans," said Oswald. "The new scanner will offer more precision and support more compassionate care for cardiac patients, and that is the best reason to invest."

St. Boniface Hospital Foundation began raising funds for the cardiac CT scanner in 2008. A number of donors, community leaders and organizations supported the initiative, including Russ and Edna Edwards who made a $1 million donation to the project.

"This is most gratifying to see. My family's history with the hospital goes back a long way," said Russ Edwards. "My wife Edna worked here for 27 years as an RN, and our daughter Margaret worked as an RN here for 12 years. We've gone to the funerals of those cared for after passing in the care of the hospital and we've celebrated the birth of our grandchildren here."

"The Corporate policy of The Westman Group of Companies is to give back to the communities where we do business, and have our factories. It has always been my philosophy that you get back more than you give, in good will with your neighbours, and your employees," said Edwards. "We mainly dedicate our contributions to medical research, as we feel, by coming up with new techniques, this will result in newer and better cures for many ailments and diseases. New cures for MS, cancer, Alzheimer disease, and heart and stroke are very important to us all, and we must as a community, support research."

LaFlèche thanked the province for matching the fund-raising, recognizing Premier Greg Selinger for his commitment to support the ongoing operation of this equipment.

"The dedicated cardiac CT scanner will have a significant impact on patient care and research in Manitoba," said LaFlèche.

In addition to the important role the new cardiac CT scanner will play in patient care, it will also play a critical role in medical research. Winnipeg Health Region's Cardiac Sciences Program includes a multidisciplinary cardiac imaging research team. This group has conducted extensive research in the fields of echocardiography and cardiac MRI. The new CT scanner will expand research opportunities in this area, improving the future diagnosis, prevention and treatment of heart disease.

"On behalf of St. Boniface Hospital, I would like to thank the donors, the Province of Manitoba and Winnipeg Regional Health Authority for this much needed support," said Tétreault. "This new technology will allow us to continue to lead the way in improved patient care and cardiac services."

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