Ottawa Heart Institute lifts curtain on major expansion

Officials at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute say the 145,000 square-foot expansion project will grant patients access to some of the most advanced cardiac technology available.

Rare public open house held Friday afternoon

Dr. Thierry Mesana, president and CEO of the Ottawa Heart Institute, stands next to a 'cardiac robot' that will allow surgeons to perform delicate procedures remotely. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

New operating rooms. Wide swaths of natural light. And a cutting-edge "cardiac robot."

Those are just a few of the highlights of a 145,000 square-foot expansion project unveiled this week at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute  — an expansion officials claim will significantly enhance the experience of heart patients in the capital.

"This really allows [us to use] the most advanced cardiovascular technology, with better infrastructure,"  said Dr. Thierry Mesana, president and CEO of the heart institute.

"[That's] really deserved by this team — which is, in my view, the best team that we have in the world."

The heart institute held a rare open house Friday so that the public could get a behind-the-scenes tour of the institution, before patients are transferred to the new wing and surgeries get underway.

Eventual Civic Campus move

The expansion project comes as the Ottawa Hospital's Civic Campus, where the institute is situated, prepares to relocate to a new spot on a parcel of land on the nearby Central Experimental Farm.

While the heart institute will eventually become part of that new location, Mesana said it made sense to go ahead with the expansion project now.

Mesana refused to speculate on how long patients would have access to the revamped institute before the move.

"I don't want to give a number of years," Mesana told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

"What is important is always to have a heart institute, because this model of cardiac care is a jewel for our community." ​

Natural light will be a major feature of the revamped Ottawa Heart Institute, said Dr. Thierry Mesana, the institute's president and CEO. (Ottawa Heart Institute)

'Fascinating' robot technology

As part of the expansion, the institute is equipped with a cardiac robot — also known as the "da Vinci surgical system" — which will allow doctors to perform less-invasive surgical procedures.

The robot permits surgeons to make small incisions between patients' ribs, rather than cutting open their breastbone.

They then remotely operate small surgical instruments that are more flexible than a human hand.

"It's definitely a fascinating tool," Mesana said. "It's a very delicate surgery. It's not [applicable] for every type of cardiac surgery. There is very restricted use of this technology." 

The centre will also be equipped the latest cardiac imaging equipment and more space for families to stay with patients, Mesana added. 

"It will be very beneficial to patient outcomes, because cardiac surgeries are very complex procedures and sometimes people need longer time to recover," he said. 

The first surgeries will take place Tuesday.