Vanderbilt cardiologists treating patients' heart problems through the wrist

David Zhao, M.D.

David Zhao, M.D.Vanderbilt Heart cardiologists are using radial artery catheterization for a variety of procedures such as coronary arteriogram, angioplasty and stents. The radial artery is located in the wrist and serves as a valuable thruway for accessing the heart with the use of slender catheters.

Larry Farmer, 61, of Murfreesboro, recently underwent radial artery catheterization in Vanderbilt’s Murfreesboro facility.

“It was much easier on me,” said Farmer, who had undergone traditional catheterization in the past. “After 24 hours I had no problems at all.”

Utilizing the radial artery for cardiac catheterization and coronary interventions requires different skills than the traditional femoral artery (located in the groin), but carries many benefits for patients.

“It is more convenient and comfortable for patients to have the cardiac angiogram done through the wrist,” said David Zhao, M.D., director of Interventional Cardiology at Vanderbilt. “Patients are mobile immediately after the procedure versus having to lie still for four hours with the traditional approach.”

Performing life-saving cardiac procedures via the radial artery is less painful and carries significantly lower risks, complications and side effects than the conventional approach, he said.

The radial artery approach lowers the risk of post-operative bleeding, which is associated with higher death and complication rates. Coronary stenting from the radial artery is safer for patients, especially those on multiple blood thinners.

Interventional therapy from the radial site requires that the cardiologist has additional skill, expertise and training, Zhao said.

“Physicians should be familiar with the requirements and equipment used for both the radial and femoral approaches.

“The trans-radial approach requires unique equipment, and a cardiologist who has developed the skill necessary for this technique. Contrary to the conventional femoral approach, the radial approach has a significant learning curve,” Zhao said.

Interventional cardiologists at Vanderbilt Heart have extensive experience with this procedure at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and its off-campus locations such as Murfreesboro, having used it on complicated cardiac interventions.

VUMC currently performs about approximately 45 percent of its diagnostic and interventional cardiology cases with the radial technique. The national rate of usage of this technique is only 3 percent to 8 percent.

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