Hospital Planning for Cardiovascular Surgery

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab staff participate in a mock procedure.
(Originally published in the February 2018 edition of The Walleye)

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre continues to strive to provide quality care closer to home. In recent years, our Hospital has reached many milestones, especially in cardiovascular care.  In 2007 our Hospital launched coronary angioplasty services; in 2014 the regional vascular surgical program began and in 2017 vascular surgical services were expanded to include endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR). In 2020, the Hospital will open a cardiac surgery program.

‘Currently, our vascular surgical program provides major surgeries to the aorta and related arteries, EVAR, bypasses to arterial blockages in the extremities, creation of arterial fistulas for dialysis patients and peripheral angioplasties on leg vessels,” explains Arlene Thomson, Senior Director for the Cardiovascular Surgical Program Implementation. “When the new cardiac surgery program beings, we will also do open heart surgery including coronary bypasses, valve replacements, and our surgeons will also be able to support cardiac and chest trauma care.”

Admission rates for cardiovascular patients at our Hospital are well above the provincial average. Before they were available here, services like angioplasty, EVAR, and, beginning in 2020, cardiac surgeries saw many patients travelling outside of the region for care. To date, the angioplasty program has completed more than 6,600 angioplasties! In the 2016-2017 year, the program completed 760 cases, and this year it is expected to exceed 1,000. These are all patients that would’ve travelled to southern Ontario in the past. Travelling for care can be a burden for patients and families, and in emergency cases the time required to transport patients can negatively affect outcomes.

“The new cardiac surgical program will serve 400 to 500 Northwestern Ontario patients every year,” said Thomson. The significance of local advancements will be experienced first-hand by our patients and their families. “When surgery is required, family will now be present in a familiar environment, travel expenses will be reduced and post-operative patients won’t need to navigate long-distance travel in the early phase of recovery when they need rest.”  Post-operative follow-up will also be available locally from an expert team further improving patient care.

The new program will operate as a joint program between our Hospital and the world leading cardiac and vascular centre, the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre with the University Health Network located in Toronto. The program will recruit specialized cardiac surgeons, provide cardiac-specialized training for current staff, and launch a major hospital renovation to accommodate the new services.

The addition of cardiovascular services to our community is another milestone that highlights the dedication of our community to mark Thunder Bay on the map of health care excellence. Our community is truly being cared for by some of the best in the business. For more information about our Hospital, visit