Local hospital using wrist access to fix heart problems - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Local hospital using wrist access to fix heart problems

CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles is now performing an old procedure with a new twist.  They are using a person's wrist to access blockages around the heart, rather than the more invasive groin approach.

67-year-old Joe Pool of DeRidder is getting to see what was going on around his heart, the day he had a 90 percent blockage fixed in November 2011.  "I'm amazed at how block it was," he said. 

Pool had been putting off the pain until it became too much.  "Over a year, I was experiencing discomfort in my chest and a little problem with getting my breath," he said.

When he failed a cardiac stress test last Fall, interventional cardiologist, Dr. Thomas Mulhearn, said it was time to do something - immediately!

Pool met the criteria for a "transradial cardiac catheterization."  In simpler terms, that is when an artery in the wrist is used to get to the heart, rather than the typical groin artery.  "We enter the artery with a very tiny incision that leaves no scar, there's no suture or anything like that required and we thread our catheters up to the heart area and can deliver stents, angioplasty...all through catheters done on the wrist," said Dr. Mulhearn.

The stent opens up the artery that was blocked, getting the blood flowing again.  Dr. Mulhearn says 95 percent of patients are candidates for this type of catheterization, with quick recovery times and minimal blood loss.  "Patients are able to sit up, eat right away, whereas with femoral artery catheterizations - traditionally, patients have to lay flat for six to seven hours after the procedure," he said.

Pool says he is now feeling 100 percent again - allowing him to get back to his family, the DeRidder church he pastors and the goats he raises that keep him pretty busy!  "I'm doing great. The doctor told me I can do anything I want. I have to take medication for it, I wish I didn't have to take the medications, but I have no choice...I can take the medications or die earlier!" said Pool.

The wrist-access approach is still less common than the groin approach in the United States, but is catching on!  It is used widely in Canada, Europe and Asia.

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