For years, cardiac catheterization has been used to diagnose and treat problems in the arteries and the heart. Traditionally, the catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is inserted into the femoral artery in the groin region. At Phoenix Heart Center – and a select few interventional cardiology practices around the country – a new approach is replacing the femoral artery catheterization process.
The new cardiac catheterization approach, known as Radial First or Radial PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention), uses the patient’s radial artery, located on the wrist. Fewer than two percent of interventional cardiologists nationwide use this approach. However, the radial approach is the preferred method for most cardiac catheterization procedures for a number of reasons.
Benefits of the Transradial Approach
- Less trauma to the body. The radial artery is closer to the skin than the femoral artery, which makes it easier to access, thereby reducing trauma to the body.
- Better response to pressure. Because the radial artery is closer to the skin than the femoral artery, it is easier to apply pressure and stop bleeding when using this approach.
- Faster recovery. Because this cardiac catheterization method uses the wrist – instead of the leg – patients are able to get out of bed and walk around sooner after the procedure, accelerating the recovery process.
- Less blood loss. Studies have shown an 80 percent reduction in major bleeding, as well as a significant reduction in major adverse cardiac events for up to one year after surgery (in comparison to the femoral approach).
- No overnight stay. Most Radial First patients are able to return home a few hours after having their coronary angiogram, whereas in the past this procedure required an overnight stay in the hospital.
- Safer. New studies on radial access PCI continue to demonstrate that this approach is safer than the femoral artery approach. Safety can be attributed to the reduced blood loss and fewer complications discussed above.
What procedures can transradial cardiac catheterization be used for?
The transradial approach can be used for any cardiac catheterization procedure. This includes procedures that:
- Open blocked arteries.
- Treat heart attacks.
- Diagnose, evaluate, and repair narrowed heart valves (with stent placement).
- Diagnose/evaluate coronary artery disease.
- Diagnose/evaluate congenital heart defects.
- Diagnose the causes of heart failure and heart disease.
Are you a candidate for transradial catheterization?
Most patients are candidates for the radial approach. Exceptions include patients who are extremely thin, patients with small or twisted arteries, and patients with poor blood flow to the hand. These exceptions are quite rare.
Your physician may perform the Allen test to determine whether or not you have healthy blood flow to the hands through both the radial and ulnar arteries. It’s essential that a patient have good blood flow through both of these arteries, in case of the rare event that the radial artery becomes occluded after the procedure. This test can be performed several ways. It involves elevating the hand, creating a fist, and applying pressure to the radial and ulnar arteries. After 30 seconds, ulnar artery pressure is removed. If color is restored to the hand, then it’s safe to assume that ulnar artery blood supply is sufficient and that the radial artery can be catheterized.
Learn More About Radial First Cardiac Catheterization
Learn more about the transradial approach in an interview with Phoenix Heart Center cardiologist, Dr. Richard R. Heuser.
For more information about Radial First cardiac catheterization, contact a Phoenix Heart Center practice location convenient to you. Now serving Central Phoenix, East Mesa, and Tempe. You can also schedule an appointment online.