Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization involves passing a thin flexible tube (catheter) into the right or left side of your heart. The catheter is most often inserted from the groin or the arm.

Diagnostic cardiac catheterization is used to help diagnose certain heart conditions such as:

Radial Catheterization

When cardiac catheterization is performed by inserting the catheter into the wrist, it is called radial catheterization.

At Wake Forest Baptist, radial catheterization has become our preferred approach for cardiac catheterization. We perform 70 percent of diagnostic catheterization procedures through the radial artery, totaling more than 2,000 procedures each year.

Our use of radial catheterization is part of our commitment to offering the most advanced diagnostic services for heart and vascular disease. All of our vascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists are experienced in this approach to diagnostic cardiac catheterization and use it whenever possible.

Benefits of Radial Catheterization

Benefits of the radial approach include:

  • Increased comfort that comes from using a small incision point
  • Less bruising and bleeding
  • Fewer complications
  • Faster overall recovery

Generally, patients with a good blood supply to their hands can receive the radial approach. If you are very thin or have small or twisted arteries in your wrist, we’ll need to use a different approach, such as the artery in your groin. Our specialists always have your health and best outcome in mind.

Radial Catheterization: What to Expect

Before radial catheterization, you will receive medication through an IV that may make you sleepy, but you’ll be awake for the procedure. We will give you medication to numb the skin on your wrist where we insert the catheter. You may feel some pressure, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. After the area is numb, we’ll pass a thin, flexible tube through the artery to your heart.

When the catheter reaches your heart, your doctor can:

  • Collect blood samples
  • Measure blood flow in the arteries of your heart
  • Measure blood pressure in the arteries of your heart
  • Get a tissue sample (biopsy)
  • Check the oxygen levels in your heart
  • Look for heart defects and heart valve defects

After your procedure, we’ll place a band similar to a wristwatch around your wrist to apply pressure and prevent bleeding. Most patients are able to get up almost immediately after this test.