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Chilton Hospital Offers Alternative to Angioplasty for Heart Attack Patients
12/17/2013

Lawrence Blitz, MD, medical director of the Cardiovascular Interventional Lab at Chilton Hospital.

On October 20, 2013, Lincoln Park resident William Alala was rushed to Chilton Hospital while suffering a heart attack – his second one in seven years. Once again, he received an emergency angioplasty to repair the clogged artery. But this experience was dramatically different than the first. Thanks to advances in interventional cardiology, his physician was able to reach the heart another way: through a tiny needle inserted in his wrist.

Instead of a long, difficult recovery, 79-year-old Alala was back on his feet and having lunch with his buddies the very next day. 

Angioplasty is a non-surgical procedure used to open narrowed or blocked coronary arteries and restore blood flow to the heart. Basically, the circulatory system acts as an expressway. A long, thin tube is typically threaded into a large artery in the groin and expertly guided to the blockage by an interventional cardiologist, who then opens the artery with a balloon and/or stent. While this approach is safe and successful, research suggests that a newer angioplasty technique, called transradial catheterization, may be even better.

With transradial catheterization, the physician accesses the heart through the radial artery in the wrist rather than the femoral artery in the groin. Same destination, different route. According to Lawrence Blitz, MD, medical director of the Cardiovascular Interventional Lab (CVIL) at Chilton, this alternative approach offers many significant benefits.

First, the radial artery is closer to the skin and easier to reach than the femoral artery, which results in less bleeding. “Transradial catheterization reduces bleeding complications by about 60 percent,” asserted Dr. Blitz. The puncture site heals much faster, minimizing blood loss and lowering risk to the patient.

The transradial approach also promotes a more comfortable recovery, which is a tremendous advantage for patients. After undergoing a femoral angioplasty, patients must lay flat and still for several hours – sometimes overnight – to avoid bleeding.

“Transradial catheterization is far less confining,” noted CVIL Manager Dina Tortorelli, RN. “Patients can sit up, get out of bed and walk around right after their procedure.” Most recuperate within hours instead of days.

While everyone is not a candidate for angioplasty through the wrist – due to underlying medical issues or challenging anatomy – Dr. Blitz emphasizes that the approach is an excellent option for the vast majority of patients. “In my personal experience, 99.9 percent of patients who have experienced both types of angioplasty prefer the transradial approach,” he said.

William Alala is the first to agree, describing the experiences as “night and day.”

“After my previous angioplasty, I had so many restrictions. I had to be careful walking, climbing the stairs and couldn’t shower for a week,” he noted. “When it was done through the wrist, I woke up feeling terrific. I was hanging out with my friends that afternoon… like nothing ever happened.”

Alala is profoundly thankful that the latest innovation in angioplasty is available at Chilton.

To learn more about Chilton’s full continuum of heart and vascular services, visit the hospital’s website at www.chiltonhealth.org. Or call 1-888-CHILTON for a referral to a skilled Chilton physician.

Chilton Hospital is a fully accredited, 260-bed, acute-care, community hospital. It is Five-Star Rated, the highest possible by Heathgrades, for Total Knee Replacement and Heart Failure, for three years in a row and two years in a row, respectively. Chilton is also named a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by The Joint Commission for Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia and Surgical Care. Chilton’s reputation in the community has been built on personalized care and many close-to-home services including an Emergency Department, MotherBaby Center, Comprehensive Wound Healing/Hyperbaric Center and Sleep Health Institute. The hospital has nearly completed its $24 million modernization project, which includes the Cardiovascular Interventional Lab, The Breast Center, Total Joint Center, Cancer Center and Surgical Services. The Chilton Health Network is continuously growing with satellite offices currently in Butler, Haskell, Hewitt, Pompton Plains and Wayne, NJ. Chilton Hospital is located at 97 West Parkway in Pompton Plains, NJ 07444. For more information about its facilities and services, or to find a doctor by name, specialty, or location, please visit www.chiltonhealth.org or call 1-888-CHILTON.

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