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Updated Jun 14, 2013 - 8:25 am

The wrist may be key to better heart treatment

Dr. Richard Heuser of Phoenix St. Luke's Medical Center shows a cardiac catheter, which gets inserted into a patient's wrist. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- A cardiologist at a Phoenix hospital thinks there's a better way to treat your heart.

During a cardiac catheterization, a doctor can test and treat your heart by inserting a long flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel, threading it to your heart.

"Most cardiologists still perform the procedure from the groin," said Dr. Richard Heuser, a cardiologist at St. Luke's Medical Center in Phoenix.

That's the way it's been done for years.

Four years ago, St. Luke's started doing it a different way.

"We do every procedure on the heart from the wrist, unless there's reason we can't do it, like the patient has no pulse from either wrist," Heuser said.

Heuser says this method is less expensive and has a faster recovery time. Many patients who have a stent put into their heart can go home two hours later, instead of staying in the hospital overnight. It's also more comfortable than inserting the tube through the groin. Heuser says that of the patients who have had cardiac catheterizations through both the groin and the wrist prefer having it done through the wrist.

Heuser says catheterization through the groin can be a problem for some people.

"I'm going to level with you. Maybe you haven't noticed, but we've got a lot more obese patients out there, and it's getting worse," Heuser said. "Those patients have a more difficult time when we go from the groin. They're more likely to have a breathing problem."

Heuser introduced the wrist method, which goes through the radial artery in the arm, to the Phoenix area nearly 20 years ago. But he said the equipment at that time was poor.

Now, things have improved, and more doctors are using the risk method. A number of students say the so-called "radial technique" has better long-term results for patients, with fewer complications from bleeding.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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