Cardiac Care

HNHB LHIN residents have historically accessed advanced cardiac services, such as cardiac catheterization and coronary percutaneous intervention (PCI), at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) Hamilton General Hospital. HHS is one of Ontario’s provincial cardiac centres that provides a range of advanced cardiac services, such as cardiac surgery, cardiac catheterization, PCI and advanced cardiac arrhythmia services. Click here for more information.

The approval of a cardiac catheterization service at Niagara Health System’s (NHS) new St. Catharines site provided an opportunity to develop an Integrated Cardiac Interventional Program between HHS and NHS and include PCI at NHS. 

After more than three years of planning by physicians and senior administrators of both hospitals and the LHIN a new Integrated Cardiac Catheterization and PCI Program - the Integrated Heart Investigation Unit (HIU) - opened at the NHS St. Catharines site in April 2013.This program, operated by HHS at the NHS St. Catharines site, works within a framework of one program on multiple sites.

Benefits of the Integrated Cardiac Program model include:

  • One number to call for referral and triage
  • Improves patient experience
  • Improves Niagara residents’ access to quality cardiac interventional care
  • Facilitates the development of a strong cardiac program in Niagara by attracting new cardiologists to the Niagara area and having interventional cardiologists work at both hospital sites
  • Optimizes available health human, capital and financial resources

Key features of the Integrated Cardiac Program model include:

  • Appointment of one medical director for the integrated program
  • Centralized referral and triage process
  • Standardized referral and patient care processes that provide evidence-based care
  • Shared policies, procedures and protocols, including common clinical policies, procedures, admission and discharge criteria
  • Common quality of care monitoring, reporting and identification with a commitment to joint monitoring of quality performance indicators
  • Establishment and use of sophisticated information technology structures
  • Joint recruitment of interventional cardiologists and common credentialing (under this model, one interventional cardiologist will be identified to work primarily at the NHS site and HHS’ interventional cardiologists will have privileges to work at both sites providing a sustainable and stable interventional work force)

Quick Facts

  • In 2013-14, the Integrated Heart Investigation Unit at the NHS St. Catharines site completed 1,251 cardiac catheterizations procedures
  • In April 2014, the Integrated Heart Investigation Unit at the NHS St. Catharines site began performing PCI services

About Cardiac Catheterization and PCI

Cardiac Catheterization: Diagnostic cardiac catheterization or “cath” is a diagnostic procedure in which a catheter is introduced into a large blood vessel in the arm or leg and threaded through the circulatory system to the heart.  A contrast medium is then injected into the coronary circulation and x-rays are taken.  This procedure identifies narrowed or blocked coronary arteries through radiography.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI): PCI, commonly known as coronary angioplasty, is a non-surgical procedure used to treat the narrowed coronary arteries of the heart found in coronary heart disease. This procedure involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter into the circulatory system through a large blood vessel in the arm or leg.  The catheter is guided under x-ray to the narrowed coronary artery where the balloon is inflated to widen the narrowed artery (flattens the fatty plaque).