Unclogging Arteries through the Wrist

July 1, 2009 7:43:15 PM PDT
One-and-a-half-million people will have a heart attack this year. Every minute, somebody dies from one. A new technique that involves a patient's wrist is helping save more lives.Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. In fact, 1,400 people will suffer a heart attack today. Half of all heart attack deaths occur within one hour of the first sign. The stats are alarming; and now, doctors are using a new pathway to help find heart disease before it kills. Cardiologists use the wrist instead of the groin for angiograms.

"It easily slides through the small radial artery," Sanjay Patel, M.D., F.A.C.C., an interventional cardiologist at Memorial Hermann Woodlands Hospital in Houston, Texas, told Ivanhoe.

Using trans-radial catheterization, Dr. Patel enters the radial artery. A catheter ropes its way through the artery into the heart in search of blocked arteries.

If there is a problem, a stent can be placed right away. Dr. Patel says wrist angiograms are harder to perform because the artery is smaller, but in one study they cut the need for blood transfusions by 50 percent.

"To our experience, nobody could really bleed to death in the wrist, compared to the groin," Dr. Patel said.

The risk of nerve damage is greatly reduced, and instead of laying down for six hours after surgery, patients sit up immediately.

"In fact, they can walk right out of the cath lab as soon as my procedure is over," Dr. Patel said.

Barbara Lewis believes this procedure saved her from heart surgery.

"I was having headaches real bad and just started feeling really dizzy," Lewis told Ivanhoe.

A wrist angiogram revealed no blockages. She's now taking medication to get her blood pressure under control.

"I feel a whole lot better," Lewis said. "I don't have the headaches liked I used to."

It's peace of mind that hopefully leads to a healthier heart.

Although wrist angiograms are used in fewer than 5 percent of patients in the United States, 40 to 50 percent of all angiograms in Europe are done this way.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Sanjay Patel, M.D.
(281) 297-7648
http://www.memorialhermann.org

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