LUMBERTON — Traditionally, to determine if you have fat or cholesterol buildup that could lead to a heart attack, a cardiac catheterization is done by entering the femoral artery at the top of your leg.
There is now an alternative technique, namely entry through the artery in the wrist — the radial artery. At Southeastern Regional Medical Center, Drs. Robert Everhart and Matthew Cummings, of Duke Cardiology in Lumberton and Southeastern Heart and Vascular, are offering patients who meet certain criteria this alternative.
“The majority of patients prefer having it done through the radial artery,” Everhart said. “If they’ve had it done both ways, they say they would prefer not having it done through the groin again.”
During a catheterization procedure, a doctor places a thin tube called a catheter inside a blood vessel that leads to the heart. Through the catheter, the doctor can check for many types of heart problems, including blockages that hinder blood flow and could trigger a heart attack.
Studies have shown benefits to entering the heart through the wrist. Patients may bleed less, both internally and externally, and experience less discomfort because they can sit up, walk and eat immediately after the procedure.
“Some patients are able to walk out of the procedure room,” Everhart said. “They don’t even need to be placed on a stretcher.”
The more traditional method requires nurses or cath lab technicians to put pressure on the groin area where the catheter is placed for 30 to 60 minutes after the procedure. Then, the patient has to lie in bed for three to six 6 hours. When treating overweight or obese patients, it can be difficult to apply enough compression to the area to stop the bleeding and to access the femoral artery.
According to Everhart, both he and Cummings are proficient in the procedure and offer it to most of their patients.
“We perform both diagnostic and interventional procedures, such as placement of coronary stents through the radial artery routinely and have done so for over a thousand patients in the last two years here at SRMC,” Everhart said.
“Individuals having a cardiac catheterization procedure in Southeastern Heart and Vascular at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, with the physicians from Duke, have a much higher chance of having the radial procedure than at other area medical centers where it may not be performed as routinely,” he said.
As with any procedure, radial artery cardiac catheterization has some risks. Artery spasms and anatomical variations may occur in a few cases. Generally, however, the procedure has very low complication rates.
“Patients may not be candidates if they have dialysis shunts in both arms, a known obstruction or no pulse in their wrist,” said Everhart.
Ask your doctor which catheterization method — through the groin (femoral) or the wrist (radial) — is best for you.
For information or to schedule an appointment with Everhart or Cummings, call Duke Cardiology of Lumberton at 910-671-6619. For information about Southeastern Heart and Vascular, a part of Southeastern Health, go to southeasternheart.org.