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Cardiac Catheterization

When it comes to matters of the heart, there's nothing like experience. WakeMed Heart & Vascular provides the latest technology, demonstrates highest level of patient safety and offers outstanding care to all of our patients. But, it is your well being that matters most to us. 

The WakeMed Heart & Vascular physicians and staff perform several types of invasive procedures in the heart as well as in other arteries within the body, including cardiac catheterization.

Cardiologists perform cardiac catheterizations (caths) to evaluate blood flow to the heart and the heart's pumping ability.  Caths can also be used for angioplasty to open blocked arteries and to place stents to keep arteries open.

Cardiac Catheterization is a test where a long thin tube, called a catheter, is placed in an artery in the groin, wrist or arm. This catheter is then guided to the coronary arteries, which are the arteries on the heart muscle. Using X-ray equipment, a contrast dye is injected allowing your doctor to see blockages or narrowed places in the coronary arteries, and to measure how well your heart is working.

This information helps your doctor decide the best treatment for you. If there are blockages, angioplasty is done to open the blocked artery and a stent (a small metal device that works as a scaffold within the artery) may be inserted to keep the artery open. Sometimes several blockages may be found in the arteries and coronary artery bypass surgery may be required.

When a cath is performed through the wrist it is called a transradial catheterization, and it offers significant benefits to patients.  These include:

  • Lower risk of bleeding at the incision site
  • Less pain - Femoral cath patients must endure up to eight hours of painful, manual compression at the incision site to avoid bleeding.  Transradial cath patients wear a simple wrist compression device.
  • Patient can move almost immediately after the procedure - A femoral procedure requires patients to lie flat for hours.  Transradial patients do not have to lie flat and can move around, walk to the bathroom, etc. soon after the procedure.

Today, only approximately five percent of U.S. cardiologists use the transradial technique, but that percentage is increasing. 

Are you a candidate for transradial catheterization? 

Most cath patients qualify for a transradial procedure.  One test used to determine if a patient is a candidate for a transradial cath is called an Allen's test.  The cardiologist compresses or occludes the ulnar artery for a few minutes and then compares the color of the patient's two hands. The cardiologist then compresses the patient's radial artery for a few minutes and does the comparison again.  The test shows the doctor how well the blood circulates through the ulnar and radial arteries to help ensure they are healthy and clear for the procedure.