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Durham VA helping detect heart ailments in veterans

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Cardiac catheterization, pioneered by Dr. Sunil Rao, is a new, seemingly painful procedure that uses the wrist as the entry point for a catheter. Cardiac catheterization, pioneered by Dr. Sunil Rao, is a new, seemingly painful procedure that uses the wrist as the entry point for a catheter.
DURHAM, N.C. -

A new technique created to detect heart ailments is helping doctors treat an increasing number of veterans. 

Cardiac catheterization, pioneered by Dr. Sunil Rao, is a new, seemingly painless procedure that uses the wrist as the entry point for a catheter. 

The specialized procedure takes about 45 minutes while the patient is still awake, allowing most to go home the same day. 

Cardiac catheterization is being used at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center on vets like Jerry Lee Ashley. He is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran. 

Ashley is at the Durham VA in hopes to catch any problems with his heart. 

"We Know that the burden of heart disease is very high among veterans," Dr. Rao said. "Some of that has to do with the fact that the majority of veterans that we're seeing are still men."

Dr. Rao performs the minimally invasive cardiac catheterization procedure on Ashley. After just 45 minutes, Ashley is done and the hospital staff can begin to look at the results of the procedure. 

The x-ray will show if there are any blockages or abnormalities. 

The test showed that Ashley has abnormally thin valves. A condition that may require open heart surgery. 

Last year, the Durham VA performed over a thousand of these procedures, more than any other VA in the country. 

Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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