(WTVM) - Every year, one million Americans undergo a procedure called Angioplasty.
Doctors insert a catheter with a stent into a patient's artery to open blockages near their heart.
For some patients, an easier recovery may be in the wrist.
Judy Whipkey, 68, loves taking care of her granddaughters and the home she shares with husband, Jay.
However, for weeks she had been exhausted and short of breath. Then an incident took place that Judy could not ignore.
"About 4, 4:30 a.m. I woke up with all the symptoms that you read in the books and on the TV," Judy said.
Dr. Krishna Tummalapalli found Judy had severe blockages in the arteries around her heart.
In the United States, most doctors insert heart stents by sending a catheter through an artery in the groin.
But now, another approach may be gaining ground: access to the heart using an artery in the wrist.
"It is easily compressible; hence the puncture site complications and vascular complications are much less," Dr. Tummalapalli said.
In a new study called the Matrix trial, doctors at 78 European centers compared both and found the wrist approach greatly reduced the risk of major bleeding and death.
Dr. Tummalapalli says recovery is easier.
"The patient does not need to lay down flat for four to six hours," Dr. Tummalapalli said. "They can sit up immediately. They can walk around."
For Judy, a tiny puncture mark is the only reminder of the procedure that put her life back on track.
The wrist or radial approach is used in about 20 percent of all stenting procedures in the United States and that could grow to 50 percent soon.
Doctors say patients with renal failure or kidney dialysis would not be good candidates for this approach.