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Gainesville doctor provides options to heart patients
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When it comes to treating and diagnosing certain heart conditions, most physicians in the United States tend to go straight for the groin area - seeking out the femoral artery.

While that procedure has been highly effective, some physicians say there may be a better way.

"The same way ‘all roads lead to Rome,' all arteries eventually lead to the heart," said Dr. Andrew Yen, an interventional cardiologist with the Northeast Georgia Heart Center in Gainesville.

"There is a big artery that runs through the groin - traditionally in the U.S., 98 to 99 percent of procedures are done in that area, but the same procedures can be done through radial artery access in the wrist."

And Yen says he is one of only a few physicians in Northeast Georgia who can perform the highly technical procedure.

While all procedures have their risks, wrist access may produce fewer bleeding complications. According to the American Heart Journal, radial artery access reduces the risks of major bleeding complications by more than 70 percent.

A number of factors lower bleeding complications - including the fact that arteries in the wrists are smaller than those in the groin and because it is an area where the arteries can be easily compressed should bleeding occur.

Also, with femoral access, a patient must remain on his or her back after the procedure for up to six hours.

"That's not tolerated very well by people with back problems or by people who are (obese)," Yen said. "A benefit of radial access is that patients can generally get right up after the procedure is over."

Both procedures take about an hour to complete. Like with femoral artery access, radial access can be used to diagnose and treat coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and peripheral vascular disease, Yen said.

During such procedures, either through the groin or wrist, a thin tube is inserted into an artery to ultimately reach the heart. Once in the heart's chambers or coronary arteries, the tube can be used to help measure blood oxygen levels, detect heart defects and to determine the heart's pumping abilities, American Heart Association officials say.

Although radial artery access has its benefits, the procedure isn't for everyone - especially older women, whose veins tend to be smaller, Yen said. Radial arteries already create a very technical operation situation because of the smaller size.

"Basically, most doctors trained in the U.S. are trained to perform femoral artery access, but most surgeries in Canada are done through the wrist. I think it's just a matter of time before the U.S. catches up," Yen said. "No matter what the approach, there are pros and cons."