Atherectomy

Atherectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that treats severe atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in the arteries) in people with coronary heart disease or peripheral artery disease (PAD). It is an alternative therapy to angioplasty.

During an atherectomy, an interventional radiologist uses a catheter with a small, sharp tool at the end to remove plaque from a blocked artery, restoring blood flow. The interventional radiologist uses an angiogram to guide the catheter through the affected artery.

Your doctor may suggest an atherectomy if you have coronary heart disease or PAD and:

  • Have very hard plaque buildup that may not be treated successfully through angioplasty
  • Have had an angioplasty that failed to improve blood flow

What to Expect: Atherectomy

Atherectomy may take up to two hours to complete. The length of the procedure will depend on your specific condition.

You can expect the following on the day of your procedure:

  • Before the procedure begins, a nurse will give you a sedative to relieve any anxiety you may feel.
  • The nurse will use a local anesthetic to numb the area where the interventional radiologist will insert the catheter – usually in the groin or arm.
  • The interventional radiologist will make a small incision and insert the catheter through the incision and into an artery.
  • The catheter will then be guided to the area being treated.
  • Once the catheter is in place, the interventional radiologist will inject a contrast agent to create clear X-ray images of the affected artery – this is called an angiogram.
  • The angiogram will be used to guide the blade-tipped catheter to the blockage.
  • The interventional radiologist will scrape away and collect the plaque for removal.
  • Once the artery is open, the catheter will be removed and incision will be closed.

Depending on your condition, you may go home the same day of the procedure or you may stay overnight in the hospital. Please arrange for someone to drive you to and from the procedure.

Upon your return home, be sure to follow all of your doctor's orders for a proper recovery. You will likely need to avoid any strenuous activities for a few days after the procedure.

Your atherectomy care team may include specialists from these services: