Study shows heart biopsy possible via arm catheterization

SAN DIEGOHeart biopsies, which are typically performed via catheterization through the groin or neck, are possible and may cause less discomfort for patients when performed through a vein in the wrist, according to a study by Penn State Cardiovascular Center specialists.

"Although not everyone is a candidate for catheterization through the wrist, called transradial catheterization, this study shows that this technique is promising as an option for patients who need heart biopsies," said Ian C. Gilchrist, M.D., professor of medicine, Penn State College of Medicine at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. "Up to now, even physicians trained in the transradial catheterization approach had avoided offering the arm catheterization option for patients who needed a heart biopsy because we weren't sure about the technique's effectiveness for biopsies."

Carey D. Moyer, M.D., cardiology fellow, Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, presented the study today (April 29, 2004) at the scientific poster session of the Society of Cardiac Angiography and Intervention Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Heart biopsies, in which a small sample of heart muscle is removed for testing, are prescribed yearly for heart transplant patients so physicians can check for signs of rejection of the transplanted heart. Heart biopsies also are used to diagnose the cause of a patient's heart failure, or to check the hearts of some patients who are being treated with chemotherapy. Originally, surgeons would do heart biopsies through a large incision in the chest. In the late 1970s, physicians started taking heart biopsies through catheters that were snaked through a vein in the groin or the neck to the heart.

"Some patients who've suffered with heart problems for many years can have severe scarring in the veins and arteries in the groin and neck, making it difficult to retrieve the sample of heart tissue," Gilchrist said. "Knowing that

Contact: Valerie Gliem
Penn State

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