The Epitome of Scutwork

The picture alongside is a femoral compression device. It is used to compress the femoral artery after a procedure that required incision of the artery. Suffice to say it is not available in our state-owned hospitals. We have to compress with brute strength instead.

Recently while my firm was on call, a woman was in the cardiac cath-lab for an AV-malformation. For those unfamiliar with the process (or more unfamiliar than me), cardiac catheterisation generally entails entry through the femoral artery.

While the catheterisation was under way, she stopped speaking and experienced paralysis of the right side of her body. She had an embolic stroke. Thrombolytic medication was administered and the catheter was removed… which meant that her clotting ability virtually disappeared, and she had a surgical incision in a major artery.

So guess who had to compress the femoral artery for six hours? Not the cardiologists, that’s for sure. Not even the students on cardiology. Nope. The students on Internal Medicine – and that just happened to be my firm.

We took half-hour shifts compressing. It was definitely something I’ll remember forever: compressing with all my might while the nurses changed her, while she woke up confused and I had to try to explain everything to her while standing on her right side (where both the incision and the hemiplegia was). I almost got thrown up on. Radiology came to do mobile X-rays in the emergency unit, and since I couldn’t leave unless she was to bleed out, I had to don the lead apron (it was heavy) while the X-rays took place.

We were a little peeved that the responsible department wasn’t compressing instead. It was a particularly busy day in the Medical Emergency and it was quite a nuisance being out of action for the duration of one’s “compression shift”.

Nevertheless, it is kind of a nice memory to have now. Exciting.


  1. I had to do this recently for a woman with a femoral aneurysm post-angiogram. There really is no good way to make small talk with someone while pressing on their groin.

    1. Your comment made me laugh. So true. What made the small-talk more difficult was that this lady had an aphasia and was so frustrated with not being able to express herself that she at times tried to chase us away.

  2. Sam says:

    That does sound like an experience you will remember. Better than sitting in class!

    1. Well yes, that is quite true. Although my cramping hands may be inclined to disagree 😛

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