GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Heart catheterizations may be easier and safer now, thanks to a newer way of doing the procedure.
Cardiac catheterizations are critical in diagnosing blockages and other heart issues. For years, the catheters were threaded from an artery in the groin. But now a growing number of doctors are performing the cath test using the wrist as the starting point.
Gene Poole, 64, is a retired registered nurse who recently ended up in the cath lab at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.
"I started having chest pain and shortness of breath," Poole recalled, thinking he might be having a heart attack.
Doctors quickly performed a catheterization: the gold standard in diagnostics. But this time they used the wrist as the entry point for the procedure. It's called transradial catheterization. Memorial Hospital Cardiologist Dr. Antoine Rizk said it's the way to go for a majority of patients today.
"We try to use radial whenever we can, basically 70 to 80 percent of patients now. It's a much safer procedure in which the risk of bleeding is almost zero."
He said it's not only safer than the more familiar femoral caths, which use an artery in the groin, but he says it also means a faster recovery.
"There's no bed rest for the patient. They can be discharged the same day and it's cheaper."
Poole has had experience with both types of catheterizations. He said the cath through the wrist was much easier than through the groin.
"It was minimal pain. I had two Tylenol; that's all I needed."
Dr. Rizk said the transradial "wrist" caths have been popular in Europe for decades, but have been slower to catch on in the US.
"It does require additional training and modification of technique, which is the main obstacle to making the switch."
But, he said, it's easier and safer for most patients and is definitely the wave of the future. Dr. Rizk said the wrist cath is especially helpful in Mississippi with the high rate of obesity and heart disease.
"This is the heaviest state in the nation and obesity is one of the major risk factors for the groin entry, because the heavier you are, the more likely there will be bleeding."
Luckily for Poole, no blockages were found in any of his three caths performed over the past 25 years.
"I felt sure I had a blockage and I'd need intervention," Poole said.
Instead, Poole received a medication he now takes for a heart muscle issue, and his life is back to normal with better peace of mind.
"I was downright scared. I feel much better now, much better."