Cardiothoracic Unit group photo
22 August 2022
News Category: 
Patient and health stories
Happy (kind-of!) 40th anniversary to the Cardiothoracic Unit!

The RMH has a long, proud history of innovation and excellence in cardiothoracic surgery. The first Thoracic Surgeon was appointed in 1946, the Cardiology Department was established in 1956 and the Coronary Care Unit in 1963 (the second in Australia after the Sydney Hospital).

From 1970, the state-wide decision was made to streamline cardiac surgery procedures to the Alfred and St Vincent’s. The RMH still cared for patients post-surgery from these units, but the pooling of resources and concentration of expertise allowed this model.

It may have seemed like a world ago, but the growing need for heart surgeries in Victoria meant that RMH was able to re-establish its own unit in August 1982 – 40 years ago this month.

The Cardiothoracic Unit started humbly in 1982 with just three cardiothoracic surgeons – including former Department Head, Professor James Tatoulis. Under Professor Tatoulis’ leadership, the Department pioneered a number of firsts, including performing the first coronary bypass operation and the first total transvenous lead system defibrillator implantation in Australia. The Unit’s developments in cardiothoracic surgery and care have received international recognition for its expertise and innovation. Since 1982, the Cardiothoracic Unit has seen 32,500 major cardiac operations; an average of 900 to 1000 major cardiac operations and 300-400 additional thoracic surgery operations per year (prior to COVID-19) – the busiest Cardiothoracic Unit in the state.

The Unit employs a countless number of staff members, including 8 Cardiothoracic surgeons, 4 thoracic surgeons, 12 doctors and more than 110 nurses across 6SE High Dependency Unit, 2SE pre-admission and a highly specialised team in the operating theatres.

Cardiothoracic Surgery Ward 6SE Nurse Unit Manager Adam Bonser said the Cardiothoracic Unit could not operate without a multidisplinary team of motivated team members across the Hospital.

“The Cardiothoracic Unit is proud to work alongside the Intensive Care Unit, operating theatres, pre-admission staff, allied health teams, environmental services, as well as the incredible nurses and doctors on the ward to provide fantastic care,” he said.

“We have faced enormous challenges through COVID-19 but staff continue to work with purpose, passion and innovation in a Unit with tremendous history.”