Health News Articles

A New, Minimally Invasive Heart Procedure

Feb 3, 2014

One of the newest procedures to diagnose heart disease is available at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP). This approach to cardiac catheterization allows physicians to see what is going on inside the heart through a catheter that is inserted through the patient’s wrist, helping patients to feel more comfortable.

Cardiac catheterization is used to diagnose and treat heart problems, such as clogged blood vessels. The minimally invasive procedure uses a long, flexible tube (catheter) gently guided through the blood vessels to evaluate how well the heart is working.

Traditionally, the catheter has been inserted through a small puncture in the groin. At UMCPP, some patients now have the option for a “transradial” procedure in which the catheter is guided to the heart via a puncture in the wrist, says George Heyrich, MD, an interventional cardiologist on staff at UMCPP.

“The transradial approach uses smaller catheters, and studies have shown it is associated with reduced vascular complications,” Dr. Heyrich says.

For Diagnosis and Emergency Treatment
Cardiac catheterization at UMCPP is performed in a fully digital laboratory with high-resolution monitors, state-of-the-art procedure lighting and streamlined overhead equipment. At UMCPP, cardiac catheterization is used to:

  • Diagnose chronic heart problems such as heart-muscle or valve defects and coronary artery blockages. The study determines a course of treatment, if necessary.
  • Treat patients experiencing an acute heart attack—a procedure known as emergency angioplasty. The procedure locates and opens blocked vessels and immediately restores blood flow to the heart.

“Cardiac catheterization is the gold standard for diagnosing symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath or to follow up on an abnormal cardiac stress test,” says Dr. Heyrich, who is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular diseases, interventional cardiology and cardiovascular CT imaging. “By doing the procedure in the hospital, we have the entire medical team available to provide exceptional care for each patient.”

A More Comfortable Experience
Cardiac catheterization through the wrist involves local anesthesia and mild sedation—similar to a colonoscopy. “Patients prefer it because they can sit up right after the procedure,” says Dr. Heyrich.

The transradial procedure is not for all patients, including those who have had prior bypass surgery or those with circulation problems in one of the main arteries of the wrist, Dr. Heyrich notes.