By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater Medical Center is one of a handful of U.S. hospitals to use a heart diagnostic procedure that is more comfortable for patients, results in fewer medical complications and is cheaper than the traditional technique.
Less than 10 percent of U.S. hospitals access a patient’s heart through an artery in the wrist as opposed to the femoral artery in the leg.
Stillwater Medical Center is one of them, thanks to Dr. Shyam Poludasu, who learned the procedure at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. While the method is common in Europe, not many U.S. doctors have switched.
Last year, Poludasu introduced the wrist method that accesses the radial artery at Stillwater Medical’s cardiac cath lab. He is teaching the technique to other doctors.
Most doctors access the femoral artery when trying to get images of the heart for diagnosing chest pain, Registered Nurse Karen Grotheer said. An 11-centimeter sheath with a one-way valve is placed in the artery so tubes can be inserted to inject dye for imaging. Most doctors are taught this method, and accessing the heart through the wrist means slowing down patient flow to learn.
But it’s worth it, Poludasu said. Femoral bleeding is more likely to go unnoticed, is more uncomfortable and more expensive than the radial option which is the same process at a different artery, Grotheer said.
At March’s hospital board meeting, Poludasu called radial access the “gold standard.” Grotheer said the hospital has interviewed patients who have had both radial and femoral arteries accessed for imaging and all preferred radial.
Poludasu is also qualified to do intervention procedures. This means that when a cardiac angiogram shows blockage he can insert a stent the expand the vessel so blood can flow. This means patients don’t have to be transported to Oklahoma City or Tulsa, costing precious minutes and requiring doctors to redo procedures to access the heart.
“Time is muscle,” Grotheer said of the heart.
Doctors have approximately 90 minutes to treat blockage before heart muscle starts to sustain permanent damage, she said.
The lab performed 455 angiograms last year and 185 of those patients were treated without having to be transported to larger hospitals.
One patient’s life was saved while attending the Oklahoma State University vs. Iowa State University football game in October. He was in the club level seating on the south side of the stadium when he had a heart attack caused by a blood clot in the main artery of his heart. In record time, paramedics where able to get him to Stillwater Medical Center and Poludasu for diagnosis and treatment.
“I think it’s a great service to provide,” said Chief of Radiology Greg Stackenwalt of the radial procedure and the lab. “It’s what the big hospitals on the east coast are doing and we are doing it here — being able to offer that to our community is very valuable.”
The lab started in 1994 and an interventionist position was added in 2008.