Basic Facts:

  • An atherectomy is a procedure that mechanically removes plaque and other debris that can block arteries throughout the body.
  • Atherectomies can be used to widen arteries that have closed or become blocked following a balloon angioplasty or treatment with stents.
  • Atherectomy treats diseased coronoary (heart) arteries, but is used less commonly in arteries outside the heart.

An atherectomy is a procedure used to remove plaque-cholesterol and fibrous tissue that blocks arteries. During an atherectomy, a physician clears a clogged artery by cutting, shaving or vaporizing the plaque that is blocking a blood vessel. the device used to perform an atherectomy is attached to a thin tube called a catheter.

Today most atherectomy procedures are performed in the coronary (heart) arteries. Far less commonly, physicians perform atherectomy in peripheral arteries (those in other parts of the body such as the legs).

When is procedure indicated?

Atherectomy may be indicated in patients who have coronary artery disease or artery disease in other areas of the body. Factors a physician considers when deciding whether to perform atherectomy include:

  • The location or shape of plaque deposit;
  • The size or anatomy of the patient’s arteries;
  • Whether the plaque is exceptionally hard, or calcified; and
  • Whether clots are present in the artery.