What Is an Atherectomy?
An atherectomy is a procedure to remove plaque from an artery (blood vessel). Removing plaque makes the artery wider, so blood can flow more freely to the heart muscles. In an atherectomy, the plaque is shaved or vaporized away with tiny rotating blades or a laser on the end of a catheter (a thin, flexible tube).
This procedure is used to treat peripheral artery disease and coronary artery disease. An atherectomy is sometimes performed on patients with very hard plaque or on patients who have already had angioplasty and stents, but who still have plaque blocking the flow of blood.
What is plaque?
Plaque is the build up in arteries of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances. When plaque builds, it can block blood flow, or it can rupture, causing blood clots. This build up of plaque is called atherosclerosis. An atherectomy is a treatment for atherosclerosis.
How is an atherectomy performed?
The atherectomy procedure is performed in a cardiac catheterization lab. Before an atherectomy, the patient receives sedatives to help him or her relax. Next, a catheter is gently inserted in an artery, usually in the groin or upper thigh area. It's then guided through the blood vessel toward the heart. When it's in place, dye is injected through the catheter and into the coronary arteries. An X-ray is taken to help the physician pinpoint the area that is blocked or narrowed. The physician then uses tiny blades or a laser, attached to the end of the catheter, to cut away or vaporize plaque.
After the atherectomy, an angioplasty or stent procedure is sometimes performed. Once the treatment is complete, the catheter is removed. Most patients go home after about 24 hours.
already had angioplasty and stents, but who still have plaque blocking the flow of blood.
Why choose Stanford Health Care for an atherectomy?
Stanford is a world leader in procedures to re-establish blood flow to the heart. We perform approximately 1,000 interventions per year and offer the latest breakthroughs in the treatment of coronary artery disease including coronary revascularization.
We offer state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization using low-radiation, high-resolution digital equipment that maximizes both patient safety and image quality. Stanford's three catheterization labs perform more than 4,000 procedures annually.