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Heart Health

Reaching the heart through an artery in the wrist

Updated: July 16, 2014

Artery-opening angioplasty via the arm is a good alternative to the approach that starts at the groin.

All blood vessels lead back to the heart. That's the basic idea behind artery-opening angioplasty. A doctor inserts a thin tube known as a catheter into a major blood vessel, gently maneuvers it through the vessel and into the heart, and uses an inflatable balloon on a wire to open a blocked coronary artery, usually placing a stent. Most doctors in the United States begin angioplasty at the femoral artery, the large vessel at the top of the thigh. But a growing number of doctors here are following what their European and Asian colleagues are doing: beginning angioplasty through the radial artery in the wrist. This approach is less likely to cause bleeding—and has other potential benefits to boot.

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