New Heart Cath Approach at Bryan Health

Photo: After a successful radial catheterization to unblock one of her arteries, things are looking up for heart patient Lana Miller-Wood.

While watching the Dr. Oz medical program on TV last fall, Lana Miller-Wood’s interest piqued during a segment about a more patient-friendly way of performing heart catheterizations through the wrist rather than through the leg.

“If I ever need another cath, I’m going to find someone who does it this way,” she remembers saying to herself.

Two months later, symptoms related to an ongoing heart condition led this cancer survivor to seek out Bryan Heart cardiologist Matthew Johnson, MD, who subsequently used this new method, radial catheterization, to open a 90 percent blockage in one of her main arteries.

“It was unbelievable — he made this tiny incision on my wrist that I barely felt.  There was a little bit of pressure when they put the stents in, but I truly had no pain. After they put a plastic pressure bandage on my wrist, I went to my room, had dinner — and then when they took the bandage off it was just such a tiny little mark — I barely even had a bruise.”

Comparing it to her previous catheterization about 12 years ago, where a vein in her leg was used for threading the catheter, Lana says, “This was much less uncomfortable than last time, when I had to lie still while they put pressure on the incision for quite a while.”

One of several Bryan Heart cardiologists who use the radial method, Dr. Johnson estimates about 80 percent of the caths he performs are done through the wrist. 

“Most patients are candidates for radial caths; however, I still go through the leg if patients have certain conditions, such as spasms or have had previous bypass surgery that makes the radial procedure more difficult.”

Photo: Lana Miller-Wood and Bryan Heart cardiologist Matthew Johnson, MD, discuss the positive impact a radial catheterization has had on her health. Effects of cancer and ongoing heart-related conditions made Lana a candidate for this new approach.

Dr. Johnson, who joined Bryan Heart last year, was a member of the team that implemented the radial cath program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine in 2010, and has seen the popularity of radial approaches in the United States increase dramatically in recent years.

Why the sudden popularity? He cites these reasons for increased utilization:

  • -Catheters and instruments have improved and become more miniaturized, and stents are lower profile, allowing them to be used in the radial format;
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  • -Radial caths tend to result in less discomfort, blood loss and shorter recovery time; and
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  • -The media, as well as patients who have had the procedure, are spreading the word about its benefits: less discomfort and faster recovery over the traditional method.
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Illustration courtesy of Terumo Interventional Systems

“Lana is not the only patient to come to us after hearing about the radial cath on TV or through the Internet,” Dr. Johnson muses. “Patients are more informed about their health care choices overall, and they are asking their primary care physicians to refer them to cardiologists who are proficient in new and less invasive techniques.”

This trend not only requires physicians to be on the cutting edge, but the hospital and other professionals must also evolve to welcome and support new procedures and technology. 

“Our focus at Bryan is not only to improve quality and clinical outcomes but also to provide a high level of patient satisfaction in the process,” Dr. Johnson explains, “and the radial cath approach is one way we are accomplishing our mission.”

To learn more about radial catheterization and other procedures performed by Bryan Heart physicians, please call (402) 483-3333.