Matters of the Heart
Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto pioneers smarter methods of detecting heart problems
Story by Casey Hilder
When it comes to dealing with heart problems, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto is among the nation’s leaders.
“In the last five years, we have implemented some significant new technological advances,” says Dr. Arie Szatkowski, director of cardiac service with Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto .
Among the most common procedures performed by the team at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto is cardiac catheterization, which allows doctors to open up arteries to detect potential heart problems. In many hospitals around the country, this procedure takes place in the femoral artery near the groin region.
“This has proven to be a very complicated procedure for the patients,” says Dr. Szakowski. “It requires laying flat for several hours at a time to allow the area to heal.”
Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto provides an alternative to this painful and often debilitating procedure by allowing patients to undergo the cardiac catheterization process through the radial artery, which is located at the wrist.
“It’s much more comfortable to the patient,” says Dr. Szakowski. “And it can get patients in and out of the hospital within the same day.”
When thinking of the road map of the human body, it’s easy to imagine these arteries as the on-ramps to circulatory system. A skilled doctor can detect problems in the heart through the wrist, or even fix arteries in the legs or pelvis. And an entry point that’s less costly for the body usually leads to one that’s less costly for the wallet.
“If you can get 15 percent of the cardiac caths in this country switched over to the radial method, you’re talking millions of dollars in savings here,” says Dr. Szakowski.
Dr. Darrell Sneed, interventional cardiologist with Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto, performs several radial heart catheterizations a week. In his six years working at the hospital, Dr. Sneed has led the charge in shifting to this less expensive, more patient-friendly solution.
“The process was much less common six years ago,” he says. “Hospitals around the country did them, but they were infrequent and mostly studied these techniques in elective cases where the patient specifically asks. Since I’ve come on board, I’ve been the radial guy, and now we all do them all the time for the most part. We now do this all the time, even in the case of emergent heart attacks.”
Despite the different entry point and less intensive recovery time, Dr. Sneed says that the radial procedure is just as effective at checking heart pressure and looking for blockages.
“The guys who do femoral approaches will tell you it’s more complex, but there are a number of benefits from performing the operation through the wrist rather than the groin,” says Dr. Sneed. “We’ve had patients come in and undergo no sedation and then drive themselves home from the hospital. He was back at work the next day.”
While the process of radial artery heart catheterization is nothing new, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto’s approach is unique because, barring extreme outlier cases, this is usually the first method applied by doctors.
“Patients are just now learning about the benefits and the comfort it allows,” says Dr. Sneed. The most discomfort they might feel during the entire process is a small, sharp prick when inserting the wrist catheter.”
Lisa Miller, Cardiovascular Service Line Manager for Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto, experienced the process firsthand when she experienced sudden chest pain on the job five years ago.
“I was the director over the ICU at the time,” she says. “I was at work and had been having some bad discomfort. I spoke to one of the doctors and he ordered me down to the emergency room.”
Miller underwent the radial heart radial heart catheterization process, got the all-clear, and bounced back with a speedy recovery time of about two hours.
“It was definitely scary,” Miller says. “But it’s your heart. You can’t see it to tell what’s wrong with it.”
However, Miller’s positive experience led to an interest in the Cardiovascular Service Line and a new opportunity at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto.
“I was an excellent experience, very easy recovery and I was back at work the next day,” she says. “Now, we try to set every heart up for a radial case, and that isn’t the norm in other cardiovascular labs in our area. We definitely do the most, with more than 80 percent radial procedures.”
Benefits of Radial Artery Heart Catheterization
Easier to get around
Patients who undergo trans-radial cardiac catheterization are usually released from the hospital on the same day and require much less post-operation care than the old methods. Patients can enjoy much greater freedom of movement, including the ability to drive and pick up small objects
Better quality of rest
By allowing patients more freedom of movement, they are allowed to choose just how they recover. Eschewing the 6-8 hours of laying flat required by old methods can be especially important for those with back problems.
Lower Bleeding Risk
Because the radial artery can be isolated much easier than the femoral artery, patients are at less risk of bleeding during and after surgery. As a result, subsequent blood transfusions and risk of death is reduced.
Heart catheterization is one of the most common procedures in the country, and heart disease is among the most costly ailments to treat. Insurance companies are charged considerably less when patients are not required to stay overnight.