Case Report

Successful Use of an Extra-Long Hydrophilic-Coated Sheath in Enlarged Aorta to Overcome Extreme Tortuosity of Right Subclavian Artery Via Transradial Approach During Coronary Angiography

Francesco Tomassini, MD, Andrea Gagnor, MD, Ferdinando Varbella, MD
Francesco Tomassini, MD, Andrea Gagnor, MD, Ferdinando Varbella, MD
ABSTRACT: The transradial approach (TRA) has gained popularity in recent years mainly because of the significantly decreased access-site complications and the greater patient comfort it offers. In this paper, we describe the successful use of an extra-long hydrophilic-coated sheath for coronary angiography via the TRA in the presence of a severely dilated ascending aorta in a patient with severe tortuosity of the right subclavian artery.

Coronary angiography and revascularization procedures can be performed by the transradial approach (TRA) in most cases,1–3 as this route is associated with lower rates of bleeding complications versus the transfemoral approach (TFA).4,5 The main limitations of this approach are the learning curve, arterial spasm, anatomic abnormalities, tortuosity and loops of the radial artery itself or of the right subclavian artery (RSA).6 We describe the successful use of an extra-long hydrophilic-coated sheath for coronary angiography via the TRA in a case of severely dilated ascending aorta in a patient with severe tortuosity of the RSA.

Case Report. A 59-year-old woman had been previously admitted to another hospital with acute pulmonary edema. She had a history of severe enlargement of the ascending aorta with moderate aortic regurgitation. The most recently performed echocardiogram showed no evidence of left ventricular dilation. Left ventricular function was normal, with ejection fraction of 60%. A severe enlargement (measuring > 6 cm) of the ascending aorta with moderate aortic regurgitation was observed. A computed tomography scan confirmed the enlargement of the ascending aorta measuring 6.4 cm in greatest diameter. After treatment with intravenous diuretics, nitrates and continuous positive airway pressure ventilation achieving significant clinical improvement, cardiac surgery was scheduled and the patient was transferred to our cardiac center to undergo coronary angiography. We performed the procedure through the right radial artery approach. After insertion of a 6 French (Fr) hydrophilic 10 cm-long radial sheath (Glidesheath, Terumo, Tokyo, Japan), a very severe tortuosity of RSA was encountered (Figure 1) and we were unable to selectively cannulate the right and left coronary arteries with any of the conventional diagnostic and guide catheters of varying sizes and shapes, not even using a very stiff 0.035" guidewire (Hy-torque Supracore, Abbott, Santa Clara, California). An aortogram was then performed and confirmed the severe dilatation of the ascending aorta with moderate to severe aortic regurgitation (Figure 2). At this point, the short sheath was removed and a 6 Fr, 90 cm, hydrophilic-coated sheath (Pinnacle Destination, Terumo) was inserted and advanced to reach the ascending aorta (Figure 3). We thus were able to easily cannulate the right and left coronary arteries with a JR-4 catheter and an AL-3 catheter (Figure 4); the coronary arteries were noted to be free from disease. At the end of the procedure, the sheath was easily removed and no complications occurred. The patient was transferred the day after to the cardiac surgery department while asymptomatic with normal radial pulse and underwent a successful aortic root/ascending aorta/aortic valve replacement.

Discussion. In recent years, the TRA has gained widespread acceptance among interventional cardiologists after Campeau performed the first cardiac catheterization in 19897 and after the first successful transradial PCI performed by Kiemeneij in 1993.8 However, technical failure has been reported in up to 5% of cases even when procedures are performed by skilled operators.9 After a steep learning curve, the main reasons for failure are represented by anatomic abnormalities of upper limb arteries and of RSA.5 Valsecchi et al reported in a series of 2,211 consecutive patients undergoing PCI via TRA an anatomic abnormality rate of 22.8% with a significantly lower success rate in this group (93.1% versus 98.8% in patients not presenting with any abnormality; p 10 The incidence of vessel tortuosity usually rises with increasing age.11–13 The use of hydrophilic-coated catheters or TRA via the left radial artery15 has been proposed to overcome these technical challenges. On the other hand, in the presence of a severely dilated ascending aorta, selective coronary cannulation is technically challenging and sometimes impossible even via the TFA. Telescopic techniques for selective coronary cannulation have been reported to successfully overcome these technical difficulties.16,17 In the case discussed in this paper, we had to deal not only with a very enlarged ascending aorta, but also with the extreme tortuosity of the RSA, which made catheter advancement and manipulation quite impossible, even with the support of a very stiff guidewire. Only the insertion of a very long sheath enabled us to successfully select the coronary ostia. The Pinnacle Destination is an extra-long hydrophilic sheath designed for peripheral interventional procedures via the TFA. The use of this device via the TRA has been described in some cases of peripheral interventions,18,19 but to our knowledge, this is the first report of its use for coronary angiography. In our opinion, it is a safe and easy-to-use device and we believe it may be profitably used in cases of extreme tortuosity of the RSA either for coronary angiography or to increase guide support in transradial PCI.


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From the Department of Cardiology, Infermi Hospital, Rivoli, Italy. The authors report no conflicts of interest regarding the content herein. Manuscript submitted June 1, 2010, final version accepted July 6, 2010. Address for correspondence: Francesco Tomassini, MD, S.C. Cardiologia, Ospedale degli Infermi, Strada Rivalta 29, 10098 Rivoli (TO) — Italia. E-mail: