Excimer laser transforms cardiovascular surgery

Promise Magazine: Spring/Summer 2015

In the last issue of Promise, we highlighted the excimer laser, technology that plays a key role in specialized procedures at the provincial Heart Centre at St. Paul’s.

Since then, donors have helped complete a campaign to purchase a state-of-the-art laser to ensure patients with pacemakers and other implanted devices continue to receive the best care.

The excimer laser creates a micro-thin beam of light that can cut through human tissue without generating any heat. It is used to remove wires, called leads, that connect pacemakers and other implanted devices to a patient’s heart. Unlike alternative surgeries, only a tiny incision in a patient’s chest is required to perform a lead extraction using the excimer laser.

“We’re really excited,” says Dr. Jamil Bashir, a cardiovascular surgeon at St. Paul’s provincial Heart Centre. “I’m still in the early stages of my career and I’m looking forward to having new equipment that’s going to allow me to provide reliable care to patients for another 20 years or more.”

The excimer laser has been used to perform 70 to 80 lead extractions each year at St. Paul’s, one of the largest programs of its kind in Canada.

“Having a new laser will allow us to continue to provide specialized care to patients from throughout the province,” says Bashir, who notes that many of his patients are from outside the Lower Mainland. “This laser has a huge impact on patients’ lives.”

Last year’s Strike Out Heart Disease – a partnership between the Vancouver Canadians baseball team and St. Paul’s Foundation – played a key role in the purchase of the new excimer laser by raising $100,000 from donations and sponsorships.

In 2015, Strike Out Heart Disease will return with another slate of events and initiatives to support St. Paul’s, with proceeds going towards a fundraising campaign to acquire a new MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner for St. Paul’s. The new scanner will be faster, which will help to reduce wait times for patients.