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Atherectomy is a catheter-based procedure designed to remove plaque buildup in the coronary arteries. Your doctor may recommend an atherectomy if plaque buildup has caused one or more of your coronary arteries to become too narrow or blocked.

Atherectomy Procedure
An atherectomy is performed in a special operating room called a cardiac catheterization laboratory (cath lab). The entire procedure lasts about two hours.

In addition to relaxing sedatives, patients receive a local anesthetic to numb the catheter insertion site (either in the arm or in the groin). The doctor uses a needle to make a small incision in the arm or groin and inserts a tapered tube called a sheath into the hole.

A catheter is inserted through the sheath into the blood vessel and navigated to the blocked artery, guided by an imaging method called fluoroscopy. What happens next depends on the type of atherectomy being performed. Either a laser will be used to vaporize the blockage or a sharp blade will be used to cut away the plaque.

Depending on the location of the blockage, a stent may be put in place to ensure that the artery remains open. When the atherectomy is complete, the doctor removes the catheter and the sheath and closes the opening in the blood vessel.

Atherectomy Recovery 
After your atherectomy, you will be moved to a special care unit, where you will be asked to remain still while the catheter insertion site closes. Most patients spend one to two days in the hospital following the procedure.

Other Heart Treatments
Houston Methodist physicians suggest several treatments for patients with concerns about heart health. Learn about other methods for dealing with cardiac concerns: 

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