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The wrist may be key to better heart treatment

PHOENIX — A cardiologist at a Phoenix hospital thinks there’s a better way to treat your heart.

During a cardiac catheterization, a doctor can test and treat your heart by inserting a long flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel, threading it to your heart.

“Most cardiologists still perform the procedure from the groin,” said Dr. Richard Heuser, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix.

That’s the way it’s been done for years.

Four years ago, St. Luke’s started doing it a different way.

“We do every procedure on the heart from the wrist, unless there’s reason we can’t do it, like the patient has no pulse from either wrist,” Heuser said.

Heuser says this method is less expensive and has a faster recovery time. Many patients who have a stent put into their heart can go home two hours later, instead of staying in the hospital overnight. It’s also more comfortable than inserting the tube through the groin. Heuser says that of the patients who have had cardiac catheterizations through both the groin and the wrist prefer having it done through the wrist.

Heuser says catheterization through the groin can be a problem for some people.

“I’m going to level with you. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but we’ve got a lot more obese patients out there, and it’s getting worse,” Heuser said. “Those patients have a more difficult time when we go from the groin. They’re more likely to have a breathing problem.”

Heuser introduced the wrist method, which goes through the radial artery in the arm, to the Phoenix area nearly 20 years ago. But he said the equipment at that time was poor.

Now, things have improved, and more doctors are using the risk method. A number of students say the so-called “radial technique” has better long-term results for patients, with fewer complications from bleeding.

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