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Radial Procedure Offers New Options for Oklahoma Heart Patients

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - Campus News - Contact April Sandefer, (405) 271-5067

Imagine having your heart fixed through your wrist. It's not science fiction. It's now a reality at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

Many heart patients who would traditionally undergo cardiac catheterization or stent procedures through the femoral artery (located in the groin area) are now experiencing shorter recovery times thanks to OU Medicine cardiologists performing the same procedures through the radial (wrist) artery. 

Mazen Abu-Fadel, M.D., director of Interventional Cardiology and the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at OU Medicine, and Beau Hawkins, M.D., an OU Physicians interventional cardiologist are particularly pleased with the results being achieved by procedures utilizing the radial artery. 

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to detect and identify cholesterol deposits that block blood flow through the arteries to the heart. Traditional heart catheterizations have relied on use of the femoral artery as a point of entry for the catheter tube. The catheter is inserted, and then guided through the artery to the heart. The procedure is much the same with the radial approach; however, the access point is in the wrist as opposed to the groin.

"While radial artery catheterization has become increasingly utilized in areas around the world, cardiologists in this country continue to use the femoral artery in the overwhelming majority of cases," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said there are benefits to the radial approach. For example, cardiac catheterization from the femoral approach requires the patient to remain stationary for several hours after the procedure in order to minimize the risk of bleeding, while patients who undergo radial artery catheterization are able to move about immediately following the procedure. 

Because the radial artery is only two to three millimeters in size, and due to its location in the wrist, a simple compression wristband can be used after the procedure to avoid bleeding. In contrast, the larger femoral artery in the groin region is more difficult to compress by virtue of its size. The amount of pressure required to avoid bleeding can cause significant discomfort for the patient and bleeding can still occur several hours or days later after an otherwise successful and uncomplicated procedure. 

Hawkins said the advantages of the radial procedure include: 
Shorter recovery time 
Less discomfort 
Less bleeding, thereby minimizing the potential need for blood transfusion and prolonged hospitalization 

New research also suggests using the radial artery may be more cost-effective than the traditional approach. 

"Multiple studies have now demonstrated that radial procedures cost less and consume fewer health care dollars than those performed through the femoral artery. The exact reasons aren't fully understood, but we know that bleeding and vascular complications are expensive to treat and often result in prolonged hospital stays," Hawkins said. "Using the radial artery helps to avoid these events that can drive up health care costs. I think this is especially important, given the heightened financial pressures on our health care system as a whole." 

In addition to identifying blockages in the heart, the radial approach is also an effective technique to open heart blockages using metallic scaffolds called stents. Depending on the clinical circumstances, opening these blockages may alleviate chest pain, improve heart function and prevent future cardiac events from occurring. 

A radial approach is feasible in the vast majority of patients presenting for cardiac catheterization. Its use is especially advantageous in patients who are very obese, as femoral access can be technically challenging and such patients are more prone to bleeding complications. It is also particularly valuable in patients for whom bleeding risk is highest, including patients with bleeding disorders, those with renal dysfunction and those on medications that may promote bleeding. 

OU Medicine is the collective brand for OU Medical Center, OU Physicians and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Headquartered at the Oklahoma Health Center campus near downtown Oklahoma City, OU Medicine is the state's largest academic medical complex. Among other things, it provides health care, conducts medical research and educates the physicians of tomorrow.  

About OU Physicians: 
OU Physicians cardiologists see patients on the OU Health Sciences Center campus at 825 N.E. 10th Street, suite 2500, and in Edmond at 14101 N. Eastern. For appointments, call (405) 271-7001 in Oklahoma City or (405) 340-0551 in Edmond.  With more than 560 doctors, OU Physicians is the state's largest physician group. The practice encompasses almost every adult and child specialty. Many OU Physicians have expertise in the management of complex conditions that is unavailable anywhere else in the state, region or sometimes even the nation. Some have pioneered surgical procedures or innovations in patient care that are world firsts. OU Physicians see patients in their offices at the OU Health Sciences Center and in Edmond, Midwest City and other cities around Oklahoma. When hospitalization is necessary, they often admit patients to OU Medical Center. Many also care for their patients in other hospitals around the metro area. OU Physicians serve as faculty at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and train the region's future physicians. 

About OU Medical Center:
OU Medical Center is home to the state's only level one trauma center and The Children's Hospital, Oklahoma's most comprehensive pediatric facility. Members of OU Physicians, the state's largest physicians group, provide care at the hospital facilities and at OU Physicians clinics in Oklahoma City and across the state. The practice includes almost every adult and child specialty, and some of its physicians have pioneered treatments or procedures that are world-firsts.

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