New heart treatment holds promise of less discomfort, quicker recovery
NEW YORK (CNN) - A new approach to cardiac catheterization, a heart treatment pioneered in the 1950s, is making the procedure easier and safer for patients.
Twelve weeks ago, 45 years of smoking caught up with George Wolkiewicz, 62, in the form of a heart attack.
"When I first got the chest pains, I was saying, 'oh my goodness, here I am having a heart attack,' and I was really frightened," he said.
Once doctors diagnosed the heart attack, Wolkiewicz was taken to a cardiac catheterization lab, where a flexible, hollow tube called a catheter was placed in his groin up to his heart.
The catheter is used to take pictures and often to help unblock clogged coronary arteries, blood vessels that feed the heart the oxygen it needs to pump.
"It was about eight hours they had that sandbag on my groin," Wolkiewicz said. "They had my legs tied separately so I couldn't cross them. It was uncomfortable; I couldn't use the facilities."
But he continued to have symptoms of heart trouble and was transferred to St. Francis Hospital in New York under the care of invasive cardiologist Dr. Meyer Abittan.
"George was presented with discomfort while walking that concerned him because he had chest discomfort in the past and required a procedure on his heart to fix it," Abittan said.
For Wolkiewicz's second catheterization, the tube was placed through a radial artery in the wrist rather than the groin, a technique advocates say has significant advantages.
"The radial actually has been shown to have less risk because nerves travel in the middle of the wrist, away from the arteries," Abittan said. "Whereas, in the leg, they travel very close together and sometimes nerve damage can occur."
Wolkiewicz said the difference in recovery was dramatic between the two procedures.
"Within an hour, I was feeling like a million," he said. "I could've played golf."
Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.