Transradial Cardiac Catheterization

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Transradial cardiac catheterization at UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute offers a more comfortable alternative to traditional heart catheterization for some patients.

Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic test to assess the heart and its blood supply. It helps doctors find the cause of symptoms — such as chest pain — that could indicate heart problems.

Traditional vs. Transradial Cardiac Catheterization

In a traditional cardiac catheterization, a cardiologist inserts a small, thin tube (a catheter) into the femoral artery near the groin and advances it into the aorta to assess cardiac function and the coronary arteries.

Transradial cardiac catheterization is the same procedure, except the doctor accesses the radial artery by inserting the catheter through the wrist.

Transradial heart catheterizations are not appropriate for people who have:

  • Inadequate blood flow to the hand
  • Injuries to the hand
  • Damage to the radial artery

If you need a heart catheterization, your cardiologist can help decide which approach is best for you.

The Benefits of Transradial Cardiac Catheterization

Transradial heart catheterization offers several benefits compared to the traditional approach.

Minimizes nerve damage through use of radial artery

  • Radial artery is more accessible than femoral artery.
  • Reduces puncture site complications (such as hematoma, arteriovenous fistula, and aneurysm).
  • Limits the chance of bleeding; therefore, less need for blood transfusions.

Increases patient comfort

  • No need to lie flat for four to six hours after the procedure. This is useful for patients who are obese, have low back pain, or have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Most patients can walk out of the catheterization lab after the procedure.
  • Decreases the use of pain medicine and reduces recovery time.

Provides accurate images

  • Offers the same technology and clear imaging results as traditional cardiac catheterization.
  • Has similar success rates as femoral approach when used for coronary stent procedures in suitable patients.

What to Expect During Your Transradial Cardiac Catheterization

  • The cardiologist will inject medication into your radial artery through a small tube (catheter). You may experience some warmness or light burning.
  • A nurse will place a plastic band tightly on your arm just above the injection site. Once all bleeding stops, the nurse will gradually loosen and remove the band.
  • You should not move your wrist or arm for a period of time.

After your transradial heart catheterization procedure:

  • A nurse will give you specific instructions about your activity level while you are recovering. These may include restrictions on using your arm and the amount of weight you can lift.
  • You can usually resume normal activity within two to seven days.

Contact Us

Before contacting the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute about a transradial cardiac catheterization, you should discuss with your cardiologist if it's the best approach for you.  

For more information, or to make an appointment, call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484) or email HeartAndVascular@upmc.edu.