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One key caveat: These were first-time, non-emergency cases.
But just 1.3 percent of the angioplasties were done through the wrist. Both methods were equally effective at clearing heart arteries, lead researcher Dr. Sunil Rao reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions.
The wrist method cut the bleeding risk by nearly 60 percent: Nearly 2 percent of patients treated the usual way bled, compared with slightly fewer than 1 percent of those treated via the wrist.
The method may be gaining steam: In early 2007, the researchers measured a sudden jump, as the wrist method accounted for about 3.5 percent of angioplasties performed then.
Rao himself uses wrist angioplasty almost exclusively, but it takes extra training that many cardiologists haven't received.
Still, the heart association's Smith said training isn't difficult, and the need may be growing: Obesity can limit traditional access, plus more patients today have disease-damaged leg arteries.
"The procedure is not one that would be recommended for everybody," Smith cautioned. But, "there are definitely groups of patients where this can be done with the same results and fewer complications."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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