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Atherectomy is a catheter-based procedure used to remove plaque buildup in the arteries. Your doctor may recommend an atherectomy if the plaque is very hard or a blockage still exists after angioplasty and stenting.


This procedure is used to treat blood vessel blockages contributing to coronary artery disease (CAD) or peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Our Approach to Removing Plaque Buildup in Arteries with Atherectomy

Atherectomy is a less invasive way of restoring blood flow than traditional open-heart bypass surgery or lower-extremity bypass surgery. Our vascular surgeons are atherectomy experts, with extensive experience and who routinely perform these procedures.


While performing your procedure, your surgeon is assisted by specialized cardiovascular nurses and technicians. The team is committed to providing the best care for your specific condition and unique needs.

How Atherectomy Is Performed

Atherectomy is performed in a hybrid operating room, which functions as both a catheterization laboratory (cath lab) and an operating room for open surgical procedures. The entire procedure lasts about two hours.
The doctor uses a needle to make a small incision in the skin into which he or she inserts a tapered tube called a sheath into an artery in the arm or groin. A catheter is then 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. Your doctor will either use a laser to vaporize the blockage or a sharp blade to cut away the plaque.
Depending on the location and severity of the blockage, your doctor may insert a stent to ensure that the artery remains open. When the revascularization is complete, the doctor removes the catheter and the sheath and closes the opening in the blood vessel.

Atherectomy vs. Angioplasty: When Is One Used Instead of the Other?

Atherectomy and angioplasty are both used to clear a blockage in an artery caused by plaque buildup, but the method of clearing the plaque differs between the two procedures.


During atherectomy, the doctor uses a sharp blade or laser to clear the plaque. During angioplasty, the doctor inflates a small balloon to stretch the blood vessel and push plaque outward. Doctors often use stenting to help keep the artery open after either procedure.


Your doctor may recommend an atherectomy if the plaque is very hard or blockage still exists after angioplasty.


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