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It usually involves poking a tube through a leg artery near the groin up to the heart, inflating a tiny balloon to flatten a blockage in a heart artery and placing a mesh tube called a stent to prop the artery open. But patients can suffer major bleeding requiring transfusions or surgery, so doctors are trying this through an artery in the wrist instead.
It's harder on doctors to do but easier on patients, who spend just a couple hours wearing a wrist band to control bleeding afterward instead of a day or more off their feet in a hospital.
The study assigned patients to get one method or the other. Survival and success rates were similar -- about 4 percent of each group died or had a heart attack, stroke or major bleeding in the following month.
But significantly fewer of these problems occurred in people treated with the arm method after major heart attacks, and in hospitals that did the arm method more often.
"The more you do the better you get," and the better patients fare, said the study's leader, Dr. Sanjit Jolly of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
The study was funded by the Canadian government, a Canadian nonprofit, and Sanofi-Aventis SA and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (It was part of a larger study testing different doses of an anti-clotting drug used after angioplasty.) Results were published online by the journal Lancet.
The cardiology college's president, Dr. Ralph Brindis, said the study should be "a tipping point" to boost the arm method in the U.S.
"Every study that's ever been done shows it's safer," said Duke University's Dr. Sunil Rao, who led one of them.
Dr. Gary Idelchik is the only one of the 30 or so cardiologists at Trinity Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler, Texas, who does the arm method regularly.
"People have said, 'I don't want it any other way,'" after having it, he said.
Heart meeting: http://www.acc.org/
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
Lancet study: http://tinyurl.com/42sd9me
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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