Healthwise: Dealing with Matters of the Heart

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

December 7, 2011

Checking for heart problems like blocked arteries could start in your wrist. In this week's Martha Jefferson Healthwise report, Stephanie Satchell looks at alternatives to Cardiac Catheterization.

For patients in Charlottesville, the answer to heart troubles can now be found with an alternative catheterization technique. Martha Jefferson doctors are now using Radial Access Cardiology more frequently. It allows doctors to make a tiny incision in your wrist and then insert a catheter which travels to your heart.

"Patients often ask how can you get to your heart through the wrist? We have a closed circulatory system and our arteries go out from our heart all the way out to the body to the radial artery. The artery connects up the arm, across the chest, and down to where the heart is," explained Dr. Josh Fischer of Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Once inside, the cameras built into the catheter show doctors exactly what is happening in your body right on the screen.

"From that little hole we place our catheters up and if we find blockage we can fix it right then from this procedure as well," said Fischer. "We do not have to change out equipment we can fix it from there."

In the past, doctors have used a similar technique to look at arteries, valves and the way the heart pumps. Instead of placing a catheter in the wrist they used a more invasive procedure, entering through an artery in the groin.

Dr. Fischer says the latest method, Radical Access Cardiology has great benefits for patients, mainly cutting down on recovery time.

"You can sit up and do normal activities, typing, answering the phones, all the next day," said Fischer.

After about an hour, and a small wrist incision, doctors can usually come up with a diagnosis when it comes to matters of the hart.

Patients can opt to have the surgery the traditional way through the groin, depending on their needs.

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