Released on June 6, 2023
The provincial government is providing new funding of $330,000 in 2023-24 to establish the Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair (TMVr) program, a first of its kind in the prairie provinces. Health Minister Paul Merriman was joined by Intervention Cardiologist, Dr. Janine Eckstein, at the Royal University Hospital (RUH) to announce the launch of the program for performing the specialized cardiac procedure in Saskatchewan.
"We are very pleased this investment makes it possible for patients to receive this highly-specialized procedure here at home, under the care of the cardiac care team in Saskatoon," Merriman said. "This will save patients and families the time and expense of having to travel out of province for this medical service."
The procedure is performed to repair a leaking mitral heart valve that can damage the heart and lead to congestive heart failure if left untreated. This is a minimally-invasive, lower-risk procedure with quicker recovery time compared to the alternative, open heart surgery.
The funding provided by the provincial government will help support the program at the Royal University Hospital Catheterization Lab in Saskatoon. Ten transcatheter mitral valve repair procedures will be performed in 2023-24 for priority cases currently on the wait list. Saskatchewan is the first western province to perform the procedure through a government-funded program with two having already been completed this year.
Eighty-three-year-old Virginia Nordlee was the first patient to receive the life-saving cardiac procedure in Saskatchewan this January. Nordlee's treatment was performed by interventional cardiologist Dr. Eckstein, the only Saskatchewan Cardiologist trained in this cardiac procedure. The procedure was a success and Virginia was discharged the next day.
"I am very, very, very grateful to have had my procedure done by Dr. Eckstein and her team at RUH," Nordlee said. "I'm so thankful for the outcome . . . It didn't hurt; I went home the next day and I don't have any stitches or scars to show."
Dr. Eckstein received her medical degree in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at the University of Saskatchewan. Thanks to the support of the Royal University Hospital Foundation, Dr. Eckstein was able to pursue advanced sub-specialty training in Ontario, where she was able to perform the transcatheter mitral valve repair procedures. Returning to Saskatchewan in 2019, Dr. Eckstein had been accompanying Saskatchewan patients to Ontario to perform the procedure prior to this year.
In June 2022, Dr. Max Buchko, a cardiovascular surgeon with additional training in transcatheter procedures was recruited to the province, which helped build a multidisciplinary heart team.
"I am proud to see the people of Saskatchewan receive this life-saving, specialized technology in this province," Eckstein said. "It is very intimidating for patients, and their families, to travel for a procedure that can change their quality of life. Having the ability to provide this procedure close to home is a wonderful accomplishment for the province. I would like to thank everyone who helped make this happen."
A total $6.9 million budget increase is being provided in the 2023-24 Budget to enhance specialty services, including cardiology and neurology services, such as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) procedures, which are already performed in Saskatchewan.
For more information, contact:
Saskatchewan Health Authority