Thumbs up for new route to blood vessels

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Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital has adopted an increasingly popular technique to access blood vessels that reduces heart patients’ risk of bleeding and improves recovery times.

Clinical and interventional cardiologist Dr Stuart Butterly completed the hospital’s first distal radial artery access procedures via a small incision at the base of the thumb.

It is an alternate route to reach blood vessels when cardiac stenting or investigating heart abnormalities with diagnostic angiography.

Traditionally, doctors go through the femoral artery in the groin or the radial artery at the wrist, but that involves a higher risk of bleeding and less patient comfort. 

“We use ultrasound to see the distal radial artery, which is very small. Then under the guidance of ultrasound, we are able to put a needle into the artery, which makes way for the catheter to the heart,” Dr Butterly said. 

Some doctors in Europe and Russia have been using this distal radial artery technique for 15 years, but it has only become more widely popular in the past 18 months. 

“International cardiologists have started to gain more of an acceptance doing angiography this way and wanting to do it this way – it is a better way,” Dr Butterly said.

Having trained to learn it in Sydney, he is one of the few cardiologists in Australia qualified to perform the procedure – and he has now completed more than 20 cases. 

“This technique has been well-received by patients who have previously had angiograms and stents via the traditional access routes. It also provides much quicker patient recovery and easier management of post-procedure bleeding,” Dr Butterly said. 

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