Local News

For Angioplasty Patients, It's All In The Wrist

Posted August 22, 2005 5:56 a.m. EDT

— To clear a blockage in the heart, doctors routinely use angioplasty. It is a safe procedure that has been used for years, but doctors are approaching the technique in a new way that may be even safer.

Visiting with family and friends beforehand, Tom Deto is about to undergo an angioplasty due to a blockage in his heart.

"I never really had problems until about a month or so ago, with the heaviness in the chest and the shortness of breath," he said.

In traditional angioplasty, a surgeon inserts a catheter to the heart through an incision in the groin. Then, they correct the blockage. Deto's procedure has one major difference. Instead of going through the groin, Dr. Howard Cohen threads the catheter to the heart through a blood vessel in Deto's wrist.

"Virtually everything that we do in the cath lab that can be done through the groin can be done now via the wrist," said Dr. Howard Cohen, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Although the groin technique is safe, research shows the wrist procedure is safer. A study in the American Journal of Cardiology found, on average, there are significantly fewer complications, such as bleeding.

"Bleeding is a major problem and bleeding is much more common when it's done from the groin and bleeding can be a very serious and life-threatening problem if it's severe," Cohen said.

Most doctors are trained in the groin technique, so for an experienced surgeon, the wrist procedure may take longer. However, the recovery time is shorter. If all goes well, patients can go home the same day.

All went well for Deto. A wire mesh stent is now in place to keep the blocked artery open.

Wrist angioplasty has been around for at least 10 years, but it is used in less than 1 percent of cases in the country each year.