Published on January 12, 2017

Radial Catheterization Offers Advantages to Heart Patients

Radial CatheterizationImproved comfort, greater safety and faster recovery are among the benefits of radial catheterization, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure used to diagnose and treat heart conditions.

Cardiac catheterization is used to diagnose and treat heart conditions. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin and threaded to the heart. With radial catheterization, the catheter is instead inserted into the radial artery in the wrist. This has important benefits, says interventional cardiologist Michael Cooper, MD, of Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare in Greensboro. Cone Health helped pioneer this procedure, and patients consistently say that they appreciate having a convenient and comfortable option, Cooper says.

Improved safety

Radial catheterizationThe radial artery in the wrist is smaller and closer to the surface of the skin than the femoral artery in the groin. As a result, radial catheterization is safer. A 2016 analysis of two dozen studies involving nearly 23,000 patients showed a 47 percent reduction in major bleeding and a 77 percent reduction in complications, such as heart attacks and strokes, when using radial catheterization. What’s more, the research findings were rated as strong to very strong.

Enhanced comfort

After radial catheterization, an inflatable cuff is put on the patient’s wrist to stop bleeding. The patient is then free to sit, walk around and head home the same day. By contrast, patients must lie still in a hospital bed for several hours after catheterization through the groin. “If you talk to people who have had both procedures, they will tell you the radial approach makes for a more comfortable recovery,” Cooper says.

Experience matters

Although radial catheterization offers several benefits, it’s a complex procedure that requires a steady hand. Think of the path of the femoral artery from the groin to the heart as a straight shot on a multilane highway. By comparison, the path of the radial artery from the wrist to the heart is more like a narrow, twisting street. However, the skilled interventional cardiologists at Cone Health have years of experience successfully navigating this route.