Cardiologists perform caths (cardiac catheterizations) to check how blood is flowing to your heart and to evaluate your heart’s pumping ability. Caths can also be used for angioplasty to open blocked arteries and to put stents in place to keep arteries open, especially in emergency situations like a heart attack.
To perform a cath, a cardiologist inserts a thin tube (catheter) into your artery and feeds it toward the heart. Usually, a puncture is made in your groin, to access the femoral artery, or the wrist, to access the radial artery. When we use your radial artery, the procedure is called a transradial catheterization, and it offers significant benefits, such as lower risk of bleeding at the puncture site and less pain. If you have a femoral cath, we have to hold pressure on the site sometimes for many hours to keep it from bleeding, which is uncomfortable. Meanwhile, transradial cath requires only a simple wrist compression device. Also, after a transradial cath, you can move almost immediately after the procedure, whereas femoral patients have to stay flat for hours. Transradial procedures also cost less.
More and more cardiologists today are using the transradial technique. Dr. David Mathias
, a cardiologist with Aurora BayCare Medical Center, is one of the first cardiologists in the nation to use the technique routinely. He and his colleagues, Dr. William Witmer
, Dr. Sarah Fenton, and Dr. Scott Weslow
, routinely do transradial caths and interventions. In fact, half of our caths are transradial.
Most cath patients qualify for a transradial procedure. To be sure, you’ll get what’s called an Allen's test. In this test, the cardiologist compresses (occludes) the ulnar artery for a few minutes and then compares the color of the your hands. The cardiologist then compresses your radial artery for a few minutes and does the comparison again. The test shows the doctor how well your blood is able to circulate through the ulnar and radial arteries, to see how healthy and clear they are.