Bill was a very active grandfather when he began having back pain following a car accident. Thinking it was the accident and stress, he ignored it. But when the problem grew worse, and he became dizzy and lightheaded, he began to suspect something else.
Bill’s primary care doctor in Davenport suggested he get to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics right away. It was a good thing Bill followed that suggestion, because further testing revealed a severe heart blockage. Luckily for Bill, he was about to be offered a new procedure to fix the problem.
How the procedure works
When looking for blockages in the heart, doctors have traditionally inserted a catheter (a long plastic tube) through an artery in the groin into the heart arteries. Afterwards, manual pressure is applied to the needle insertion point for 15 minutes and the patient has to lie flat for several hours to make sure there is no bleeding from the site.
Bill’s procedure used a wrist artery instead of the groin. Following the procedure, a small pressure band was applied to the wrist and he went home soon thereafter. This optional approach—called transradial catheterization—generally means a quicker recovery, less discomfort, and less bleeding risk, says Elaine Demetroulis, MD, a cardiovascular medicine specialist with the UI Heart and Vascular Center.
“Patients can sit up immediately and a simple band around the wrist can be used to keep pressure on the artery,” she says. “It’s more convenient and comfortable for the patient, and there is far less risk of potentially serious bleeding complications.”
The wrist-based procedure can also be used for, and is actually preferable, in patients on blood thinners. In addition, it can be used for patients who have difficulty resting on their backs for a long time because of back or other types of pain.
“Although the transradial procedure requires the doctor to make the catheter follow a thinner and sometimes more circuitous path, the procedure is generally more comfortable overall and results in fewer bleeding complications for patients,” Demetroulis says.
The procedure made a big difference for Bill.
“The thing I’m most grateful for is that I have my health back,” he says. “There is a peace of mind that comes with knowing that I’ve got another 50 years to go.”
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