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Worldclass healthcare

Backgrounder: VGH Division of Otolaryngology & PREPARE Project

March 13th, 2007
VGH Division of Otolaryngology 


A provincial resource

 The Otolaryngology Program at VGH – also known as ENT, for Ear, Nose and Throat – is a referral centre for patients from across B.C. and Yukon. With about 11,000 patient visits annually, the ENT Clinic is a busy place, operating several patient care programs, including:

 ·          A weekly dizziness and tinnitus clinic – dizziness is the second most common reason for visits to a family practitioner, and is one of the most challenging disorders to diagnose, as it can be linked to neurological problems as well as ear problems.

·          The Pacific Voice Clinic and the Provincial Voice Care Resource Program – providing diagnosis and therapy for people with voice disorders, as well as ongoing support for patients with neuromuscular diseases such as multiple sclerosis or ALS that affect speech.

Surgical procedures including simple cancer surgery are done as day cases at the clinic – more complex cases are handled in the Jim Pattison Pavilion operating rooms.

  Specialized surgery and patient care

 Many of the surgeons at the ENT Clinic perform operations that cannot be done anywhere else in the province. For example, program head Dr. Neil Longridge is known for a laser surgery procedure called stapedectomy, in which a tiny prosthesis is inserted to replace a damaged bone in the inner ear. Stapedectomies are performed quite rarely – mostly because the hearing loss caused by the damaged bone progresses so slowly that people do not notice it until others make note of it. Many people compensate by unconsciously learning to read lips.

  Tzu Chi Canada Foundation’s March 2007 equipment donation

 Tzu Chi Canada Foundation is funding equipment for VGH’s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Clinic. The equipment includes an ENT endoscopy system, cautery unit, ultrasonic cleaner, SMR units and stretchers.

 1)       ENT Endoscopy System An endoscope is an instrument used for visually examining the interior of the body. It provides doctors with a clear view of the nasal cavity and sinuses, down the back of the throat and to the vocal cords; an important ability in their area of medical specialty. The system’s small instruments are generally well tolerated by patients with little or no medication (“freezing”).

 The system creates an image of what is being “scoped” and displays that image on a large screen. These images can be stored for follow-up. Doctors can do biopsies and treat many conditions right on the spot with this equipment. The system is well suited to help detect and treat nasopharyngeal tumours, which can be cancerous. Cancerous nasopharyngeal tumours have an 80 per cent cure rate if caught early; but an 80 per cent mortality rate if detected late.

 2)       The “cautery unit” (also called an electrosurgical unit), uses high frequency electrical current for coagulating and cutting. The cautery unit purchased for the ENT Clinic is identical to the units in VGH’s main inpatient Operating Rooms.

 3)       The SMR carts are like a little ENT support system.  They are cabinets that house and power many of the essentials the ENT surgeon needs.

 4)  The Transcend Surgical Chair offers safe, controlled and comfortable patient positioning during treatment.



PREPARE – a new technology to speed up drug and vaccine development 

PRoteomics for Emerging PAthogen REsponse or PREPARE uses a new type of science called proteomics, in combination with high-speed computing called bioinformatics, to identify drug targets within bacteria.

  • PREPARE is part of a strategy to ensure that the human resources and technological tools are in place to identify new diseases and quickly develop new drugs and vaccines.
  • Target identification is one of the most time-consuming aspects of new drug and vaccine development.
  • Once these targets are found, PREPARE will work with biotechnology companies to find drugs that attack the targets and to do preliminary testing of these drugs. Later, pharmaceutical firms will become involved in the process of testing drugs on human populations.
  • To prove that the PREPARE technology works, the research team will begin by finding new drug and vaccine targets for four diseases that affect millions of people worldwide:
  E. coli is the cause of dramatic outbreaks of infection – often carried by food or water – that lead to kidney failure, especially in children and the elderly. One of the largest Canadian outbreaks of E. coli recently occurred in Walkerton, Ontario with seven deaths and 2,300 cases of illness.

  Drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is the most common form of hospital-acquired infection and has a high fatality rate. Thousands of Canadians have been affected by skin, bone and blood infections and pneumonia.

  Salmonella is the third most common cause of gastro-intestinal disease in Canada. Often carried by food, symptoms of a salmonella infection include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and fever.

  Chlamydia affects 90 million people worldwide and is the most common sexually transmitted disease in Canada. It is the most important preventable cause of infertility. Since current treatment programs are expensive, they are generally unavailable to people in developing countries.

  •  Once the technology and methods of PREPARE have been verified with these four diseases, the project will move from pilot status to being a permanent weapon in the battle against emerging infectious diseases