Transradial Catheterization

Safer through the wrist

Get one of the most common cardiac procedures in the U.S. and you may have to lie still for six hours to prevent bleeding. But not at Aurora BayCare, where we lead the Midwest in a safer option.

#1 in Midwest in Radial Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is used to perform angiograms to detect and open blocked arteries.  The process involves inserting a tiny plastic tube into an artery and advancing that tube to the heart.

At Aurora BayCare, we do more than half our cardiac catheterizations by entering through the patient’s wrist. This method significantly reduces the risk of complications and is far more comfortable than traditional methods. 

The procedure, known as transradial catheterization (or radial cath) is used widely in Europe, but few U.S. hospitals offer it.  Nationally, less than 20% of cardiac catheterizations are performed via radial cath.  At Aurora BayCare, our 57% radial catheterization rate is number one in the Midwest.

Wrist Route is Safer

Patients receiving a radial cath can sit up and walk right away after the procedure.  By contrast, patients receiving a traditional catheterization (which enters through a vein deep in the groin) must lie perfectly still for four to six hours until the chance of bleeding has subsided.  They’re also more likely to experience back pain, urinary retention and nerve damage.

Advantages of radial catheterization:

  • Reduced rate of complications
  • Reduced mortality rates
  • More comfortable for patients
  • Patients can move around within minutes after treatment
  • Patients can return to normal activity, even exercise, within days
  • Allows same-day discharge (when appropriate)
  • Safer for patients in an acute heart attack due to lower risk of critical blood loss

Ninety-seven percent of patients who have had procedures performed from both the arm and the leg prefer the wrist for their next procedure.

What would you say is the number-one reason for doing radial caths today?

“Name it. The patients like it. The staff likes it. The complication rates are less.  The costs are less and there is a reduced need for skilled nursing care.”
- Dr. Mathias, Aurora BayCare

Dr. Mathias began offering transradial catheterization nearly 20 years ago. His work has been published in medical journals and featured in the Wall Street Journal.  Every interventional cardiologist on the Aurora BayCare team offers transradial catheterization.

Q&A for Transradial Catheterization

Any drawbacks to radial caths?

Just a few. In some patients, the radial artery in the wrist may be too small for certain procedures.  Treatment can also take longer, particularly if the physician has less experience. 

Anyone ineligible?

Sometimes emergency catheterizations are better performed through the groin, if the cardiologist thinks that route will be faster. In some patients, the artery in the wrist may be too small, as some procedures require larger catheters that don’t fit through the radial artery.

Why don’t more hospitals offer it?

Most medical programs are still not teaching transradial catheterization in the U.S. That’s because the procedure takes longer to learn and it requires more experience.  Many doctors simply haven’t been introduced to the procedure and don’t have the opportunity to learn.

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