Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose and treat conditions of the heart. During a transradial catheterization procedure, a long, thin tube called a catheter is inserted into the radial artery of the arm and guided to the heart. When the catheter reaches the heart, it can be used to:
- Detect any blockages or abnormalities
- Take a blood or muscle sample
- Measure blood pressure and oxygen levels
- Repair or replace heart valves
- Detect and repair congenital heart defects
- Perform an angioplasty
- Perform a balloon valvuloplasty
- Correct arrhythmia
Advantages of Transradial Catheterization
There are several access points that may be used in catheterization, including an artery in the groin or in the neck area. However, entering through the radial artery of the wrist can provide certain benefits over other locations. There is typically less bleeding at the incision in the arm than other sites. That helps to reduce the risk of infection as well as pain for the patient. When the catheter is introduced through the groin, it generally takes hours of uncomfortable compression to prevent bleeding. Instead, after a transradial catheterization procedure, only a small compression device is needed on the wrist.
Another considerable advantage of transradial catheterization is the quick recovery that it offers. Patients are often not restricted from movement, including getting up and walking around, following the catheterization. When an artery in the groin is used for access, however, the patient must lie still for several hours post-procedure to initiate healing. This also precipitates a faster release from the hospital facility. Depending on the type and extent of the procedure the surgeon is performing via the catheterization, some patients may even be discharged the same day as the treatment.
The Transradial Catheterization Procedure
Cardiac catheterization is usually performed in a hospital but often does not require the use of general anesthesia. A sedative may be provided intravenously to help the patient relax. A local anesthetic is applied to the wrist to numb the area before creating a small incision. A sheath, which is tapered surgical tubing, is then placed in the incision. The surgeon will thread flexible wiring into the sheath and through the vascular network to reach the heart. This wire is used as a guide for the optimal placement of the catheter. The catheter is then run along the wire through the arteries to the heart in order to perform the testing or therapy that has been deemed necessary.
The catheter may be used to circulate dye through areas of the heart so that imaging devices can produce a clear picture of the heart and nearby blood vessels. It also is an effective way to obtain samples of blood or tissues from the heart and perform surgeries to repair certain problems.
Once the procedure is complete, the catheter is withdrawn and removed through the incision in the wrist. The incision will be closed, covered with a bandage and kept compressed to minimize any bleeding. The patient is encouraged to sit up in a chair and, depending upon the type of procedure that was performed through the transradial catheterization, may be permitted to move about or eat and drink.
When the catheterization is performed for diagnostic purposes, a patient will typically be released after a few hours of being monitored following the procedure. For patients receiving a treatment during the catheterization, a hospital stay of one or more nights is generally required.
Risks of Transradial Catheterization
Transradial catheterization is a safe procedure that is associated with little to no pain and a low risk of complications. In rare instances, cardiac catheterization can cause infection and pain at the incision site or blood vessel damage. Some patients experience slight bruising or soreness at the incision site on the wrist, but these symptoms are typically mild and resolve within a week.