Heart and Vascular Institute - Cardiac Catheterization

An Alternate Route to the Heart Catheterizations through the wrist

Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute is one of the leading training centers in the United States for the radial artery (in the wrist) approach for cardiac catheterizations. Faculty members have published papers and presented research around the world describing the effectiveness of the procedure.

Cardiac catheterization involves threading a thin flexible tube through a blood vessel to the heart. In general, this procedure is done to get information about the heart or its blood vessels, or to provide treatment in certain types of heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease (angioplasty to open blocked vessels). This procedure is typically performed through the femoral artery (in the groin) or through the radial artery.

While it was estimated that 3% of the US cardiac catheterization procedures were done through the radial artery, the American College of Cardiology and the Society of Cardiac Angiography and Interventions, report that there has been a slight increase in the number of procedures now performed via the radial artery. The small diameter of the artery and the proximity to the surface of the arm significantly reduces the incidence of severe bleeding complications. In addition, the site is compressed with a small inflatable band at the end of the procedure and the patient can walk immediately after the catheterization procedure, no bed rest is required. Using the radial artery approach, cardiologists can perform the same procedures typically done through the femoral artery without the hazard of bleeding and without leaving the patient with a disabling groin injury.

The cardiovascular catheterization laboratory staff is composed of experienced registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, registered cardiovascular technologists, and nurse practitioners, all of whom have extensive training in treating heart and vascular patients. Staff members are trained in the various invasive techniques and are required to participate in ongoing departmental quality improvement efforts.