Two surgeons in operating room
Peter Munk Cardiac Centre cardiologists, Dr. Eric Horlick (L) and Dr. Mark Osten, use catheters and guidewires to treat a patient with a hole in her heart – one of several cardiac conditions found within the specialty of structural heart disease intervention, which is the subject of a two-day course in Toronto beginning Friday. (Photo: UHN/PMCC)

Structural heart disease intervention is a specialized field within cardiology that is still in its infancy for many healthcare professionals. But it's growing quickly and not-so-quietly.

"It's a very fast-paced field, where you need to be at the forefront of all the information and there is so much information coming out with respect to new technologies, novel applications, how to perform the procedure," says Dr. Mark Osten, interventional cardiologist, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), and one of the medical experts leading the Toronto Course in Congenital and Structural Heart Disease Intervention. "It's fine to read it in a textbook, but ultimately you have to perform the procedure, and for that you need training, you need a comfort level."

A two-day educational session set to take place Friday and Saturday, will feature international experts in structural heart disease intervention, which comprises patients born with heart defects as well as those who encounter cardiac abnormalities affecting the heart's vessels or valves later in life.

These procedures are performed in a cardiac catheterization laboratory or hybrid operating room and involve percutaneous (through the skin) access via a needle puncture and using catheters, guidewires and other minimally-invasive devices.

"There are things we do pretty routinely in the pediatric laboratory on children that are unusual in adult congenital lesions, but as these children grow, people are going to have to be trained in order to take care of them in a very sophisticated way," says Dr. Lee Benson, pediatric cardiologist, The Hospital for Sick Children.

Dr. Benson, who routinely participates in procedures at PMCC, is one of the co-chairs of the course.

"We might have a case that I do that we won't see again for two or three years, so it is difficult to gain expertise in these fields. That's the whole point of bringing everyone together in an intimate setting."

Dr. Mark Osten, Interventional cardiologist at PMCC and co-host of the Toronto course

The cardiac conditions treated, and procedures performed, by structural interventional cardiologists include: a hole in the heart, transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), and transcatheter mitral valve repair.

"Although there are large meetings where the subject matter is dealt with," says Dr. Eric Horlick, a cardiologist at PMCC, "the intimate setting where we have a true field of international experts, where doctors can interact with them, on a personal level to share stories, insights, etc., we consider to be a very important part of this meeting."

Attendance has been limited to 30 to preserve and enhance the interactive learning experience.​

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Cardiologists explain the two-day Toronto Course in Congenital & Structural Heart Disease Intervention, which begins on Friday. (Video: UHN/PMCC)
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