Cardiac catheterisation is most commonly performed by entering the circulatory system through a blood vessel in the groin (the femoral artery). However, the procedure is also performed through the radial artery which courses through the wrist.
Catheterisations through the radial artery have several advantages:
- The patient comfort is high and as the entry site is at the wrist, patients are able to sit up and walk immediately after their procedure. Patients having their procedures via the femoral artery approach will often require up to six hours of bed rest. As result, there are fewer issues with back discomfort and patients are able to eat comfortably after their procedure.
- The patients who are scheduled for same day discharge can be discharged at an earlier time period than if their procedure was performed through the femoral approach since the post procedure recovery is shorter than with the femoral approach.
- The radial approach is safer than the femoral approach for majority of patients undergoing cardiac catheterisation. The radial artery is smaller and very close to the skin, therefore bleeding is significantly reduced compared to the femoral approach.
Prior to deciding the route, your physician will examine your wrists and ensure you are a good candidate for the radial artery approach and determine which wrist will be utilised for the procedure. The physician will administer a local anaesthetic at your wrist and this is generally the only discomfort during the procedure. Once the arterial catheter is placed in the artery, your arm will be brought by your side. A medication will be administered that helps prevent spasms or narrowing of the radial artery. This medication can give a warm, burning sensation in the hand and arm and this generally resolves within seconds. At the conclusion of the procedure, a transparent inflatable wrist band will be placed around the catheter entry site and will be left in place for at least two hours. A nurse or technician will assess your wrist prior to removing the band and your wrist will be further watched for an hour. Your physician may ask that you avoid activities that are strenuous on your wrist for at least 48 hours. The activities include lifting heavy objects and paddle sports. The majority of patients will be back to simple activities such as writing immediately after their procedure.