New Angioplasty Procedure Means Fewer Complications, Shorter Hospital Stays

Doctors at the University of Illinois and Jesse Brown VA medical centers are offering cardiac patients an alternative to the standard angioplasty procedure where a catheter is placed in the femoral artery.

With transradial angiography, the catheter is inserted into the radial artery in the wrist. The advantage to the patient is that the likelihood of bleeding (the most common complication of the procedure) is reduced. The transradial angiography is also more comfortable for the patient.

When a catheter is inserted into the femoral artery, the patient must stay in bed on his or her back for between four and six hours following the procedure. Walking can be uncomfortable for a few days, as well. In contrast, a patient who has undergone a transradial angiography can sit up right away and walk without experiencing any discomfort. Although this approach is not yet common in the United States, doctors in Europe are using it in approximately 60 percent of cases.

An angioplasty procedure is performed to open up a coronary artery that has become blocked due to a buildup of plaque. Once the procedure has been completed, blood flow to the heart increases. Angioplasty may be performed on a patient who has angina or is experiencing shortness of breath. Patients who have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease and are at risk for a heart attack may also be good candidates for the procedure.

During the angioplasty, a catheter with a balloon at one end is inserted into an artery. A special dye is injected and X-rays are used to find out how well the blood is flowing to the heart and where the blockages are. The balloon is blown up to push the blockage toward the wall of the artery. As a result, blood flow to the heart increases.

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