Many women experiencing symptoms may have a normal stress test or angiogram, which are tests often used to evaluate chest pain. Heart disease in women can affect smaller blood vessels instead of the large ones assessed in these standard tests.
Stanford is one of the few heart centers in the U.S. using special testing techniques tailored to find the microvascular disease or endothelial dysfunction that is more prevalent in women.
For many women, a treatment called percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, will be appropriate. The procedure passes a catheter, or narrow tubing, through arteries until the catheter reaches the site of a heart blockage.
Once there, a balloon is inflated within the artery to relieve the blockage and restore blood flow. Traditionally, the catheter was inserted in an artery in the groin. In women, however, that location produces two to three times the rate of bleeding and vascular complications.
Jennifer Tremmel, MD, SM, Clinical Director of Women’s Heart Health at Stanford, uses a transradial approach, inserting the catheter in the radial artery, an artery in the wrist. The transradial PCI cuts the rate of bleeding and complications by half.