Artery-opening angioplasty via the arm is safe for elderly

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Coronary angioplasty, a procedure to open a blocked artery in the heart, usually involves snaking a thin tube (catheter) through a vessel in the upper thigh up to the heart. But growing numbers of doctors now perform the technique through a person's wrist artery instead. In people ages 70 or older, these so-called radial angioplasties appear to be safer than the conventional approach, a new study finds.

Researchers pooled findings from 16 studies that included a total of nearly 778,000 older people who underwent either conventional or radial angioplasty. In both groups, the average age was 82. Radial angioplasty was associated with a lower risk of complications, such as bleeding at the catheter insertion point or needing a blood transfusion, compared with conventional angioplasty. The risk of stroke was also slightly lower in the radial group, but this complication was rare, occurring in just 0.3% to 0.4% of the participants.

The report was published online Nov. 10, 2016, by the International Journal of Cardiology.