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Monday, May 30, 2011 - Exceptional heart care worth the drive for Vonore man

Darrell Pickering, 48, pays attention to chest pains.

“I had a heart attack about eight years ago,” said Pickering, who lives and works in Vonore, Tenn.

After that episode, Pickering received a stent – a tiny mesh tube that props open a blood vessel in the heart. But when he felt more chest pain in December 2010, Pickering quickly called his cardiologist, Dr. Donna Adams at Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge.

She performed a treadmill stress test on him.

“There were some things there that raised concerns,” said Pickering. “So I went in for another catheterization, and they ended up putting a stent in another location.”

This time, Dr. Adams inserted the catheter through an artery in Pickering’s wrist, a fairly new procedure called transradial catheterization.

A catheterization is when a physician uses a long flexible tube (called a catheter), and inserts it into a blood vessel to the heart. It can be used both for diagnosis and treatment of heart problems.

Most catheterizations are inserted through a blood vessel in the groin. Patients are required to lie flat on their backs for hours after the surgery, often with pressure applied to the groin site to reduce bleeding complications.

By going in through the wrist, there are far fewer problems.

“I wish I didn’t have to do it at all,” Pickering said of the stent. “But it went really well. This happened to be the first time Methodist in Oak Ridge had performed it.”

Only five percent of all cardiologists nationwide do transradial catheterization, but it is becoming a more common procedure because of its benefits to patients.

“In addition to patient comfort, the transradial approach reduces the risk of bleeding complications from the entry site,” explained Dr. Adams.  “While not suitable for every patient, this approach can provide a safer alternative for catheterizations – especially in those patients with medical conditions which increase bleeding risk such as those who are obese, have peripheral artery disease or are on anticoagulation medicine.”   

 “After the transradial procedure, patients can sit up, eat, drink, or even walk without fear of causing bleeding at the access site. This is helpful in patients with chronic back pain or other conditions that may make lying flat difficult,” continued Dr. Adams.

“I wasn’t in there very long, I pretty much slept through it,” said Pickering of the procedure. “With it in the arm, I could get move around immediately. I was out of the hospital the next day.”

Meanwhile the wrist scar is very small, Pickering said. “I can’t even tell it now, just a very small stick.”

Pickering said he would recommend the transradial catheterization to anyone who needs it, and especially praised his care at Methodist Medical Center.

“It’s been good, that’s why I continue to go back there,” he said. “It’s close to an hour and a half from where I live, but I continue to go back there for all my heart-related, cardiac care.”