Ulnar artery as access site for cardiac catheterization: anatomical considerations

J Interv Cardiol. 2008 Feb;21(1):56-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8183.2007.00314.x. Epub 2007 Dec 11.


Transradial approach to coronary angiography and angioplasty has been widely accepted in the last few years. As an alternative approach from the forearm, with some potential advantages, we decided to test the transulnar approach as a first-choice strategy.

Methods and results: Transulnar approach was tried in 131 patients. In 29 patients there was no palpable ulnar artery or Allen test was negative. From the remaining 92 patients we performed successful coronary angiography and angioplasties in 59 patients (64% success rate in those who had palpable artery). The most frequent reason for access site failure (54.5% of all failed procedures) was inability to introduce wire despite good arterial flow. We found that the ulnar artery was not the largest artery of the forearm (mean diameter 2.76 +/- 0.08 mm compared with radial artery 3.11 +/- 0.12 mm) and had relatively frequent anatomical anomalies-11.9%. There were no major local complications, with very few minor complications. Spasm frequency was 13.6%, which is higher than that reported for transradial studies.

Conclusions: Transulnar artery approach is feasible for cardiac catheterization: however, it has higher access site failure rates in an unselected patient population. It could be used as an alternative option in selected patients, but operators must be prepared to overcome frequent anatomical anomalies and spasm.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiac Catheterization / adverse effects
  • Cardiac Catheterization / methods*
  • Catheters, Indwelling*
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ulnar Artery*