When David O'Brien compares his last catheterization and stent procedure to his first - 3 years previously - he does so with complete amazement. That's because the 69-year-old retired police officer was up and walking almost immediately after the procedure.
Mr. O'Brien is among a growing number of patients at The Heart Institute of Doylestown Hospital to receive radial angioplasty. Using the radial approach, interventional cardiologists can gain access to a blocked coronary (heart) artery by inserting a catheter in a patient's radial artery in the wrist rather than the femoral artery in the groin. Once the catheter is in place, the doctor can open the blocked coronary artery and insert a stent the same way he always has.
"Smaller is usually better when you are putting something into the body," explains Doylestown Hospital interventional cardiologist Steven Guidera, MD. "Ten years ago, we couldn't have gone through the wrist because the instruments we used were too large."
The wrist approach offers angioplasty patients a quicker recovery with fewer complications. "This is an incredible advance. The patient is much more comfortable, and there is almost no chance of bleeding complications," Dr. Guidera says. "With traditional angioplasty [through the femoral artery] the patient has to lay still for several hours after the procedure with sandbags on his or her groin to control bleeding."
Not every angioplasty can be accomplished through the radial artery, and only a select group of hospitals have interventional cardiologists with the specialized training and level of expertise required for this procedure.
"My cardiologist in Philadelphia calls Dr. Guidera a magician," says Mr. O'Brien. "He couldn't believe how he did it. It mystified him."
Mr. O'Brien understands the "magic" of this procedure better than anyone. Three years prior, he had two stents inserted into his coronary artery using the traditional approach.
"It was like night and day," he says. "I was back to all of my normal activities within two to four days [after radial artery stenting]."