What is an atherectomy? 

Plaque buildup in the arteries poses serious health risks and must be resolved. For some patients, the plaque is hardened and cannot be treated with angioplasty or may be difficult to resolve by placing a stent due to the location and size of the blood vessel. 

The procedure involves placing a thin, narrow tube (catheter) into the femoral artery through a small incision placed in your groin. The catheter is equipped with a specialized tool that scrapes away the plaque, collecting it in a chamber at the end of the catheter. Your heart specialist manages this procedure with real-time moving X-ray images. Once the plaque is removed, contrast dye is injected into the catheter to provide your heart specialist a clear look at the affected artery to ensure the problem is resolved, after which the catheter is gently removed from your body.

Why is an atherectomy the procedure I need?

In some cases, the plaque within the artery is calcified and very hard. An angioplasty works to apply pressure to the plaque to open the artery, but when it is calcified, this may not be effective. In these cases, an atherectomy may be the ideal treatment plan. As an atherectomy actually removes the plaque, rather than squeezing it to reduce volume, it allows for hardened areas of plaque to be scraped away and removed from the artery to restore healthy blood flow. This procedure is often appropriate for the peripheral arteries – those in the extremities.

What are the risks of plaque in the arteries?

Plaque is a combination of substances, including fat, cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium, and a clotting substance in the blood, fibrin. When the buildup of plaque begins to narrow the artery, it is called “atherosclerosis.” The narrowed arteries can no longer deliver the quantity of oxygen-rich blood the body needs, which can lead to several health problems. The hardened pieces of plaque can break off the artery wall and move through the bloodstream, getting stuck and causing a blockage that can cause a stroke, heart attack, or necrosis (tissue death).

How long is the recovery after an atherectomy?

Most people require one or two days in the hospital after an atherectomy. When the recovery is smooth, you will be released to return home to rest and heal. If the procedure was an emergency surgery after a heart attack, your time in the hospital will be longer and varies from person to person.

Peripheral artery disease and atherectomy

Atherectomy may be performed to treat peripheral artery disease, a buildup of plaque in the arteries in the arms, legs, or both. The symptoms of this condition include:

  • Leg pain when walking
  • Lower blood pressure in the affected arm or leg
  • Hair loss on legs and feet
  • Sores on legs that do not heal (ulcers)
  • Blue or pale skin color on legs
  • Shiny skin appearance
  • Shrinking muscle mass in legs

These symptoms may develop gradually or appear suddenly. In either case, it is critical that you undergo testing to identify the source of the problem, which may be blocked peripheral arteries. In these cases, an atherectomy may be scheduled to treat the condition by removing the plaque that is restricting the blood flow.

Why choose San Diego Cardiac Center for an atherectomy?

San Diego Cardiac Center is a leading-edge heart clinic with four decades serving the community. Our specialists have the highest level of expertise and are progressive in adopting new therapies. Our clinical research experience allows us to deliver a range of advanced procedures and therapies, often before any other clinic in the region. Our team is compassionate and dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of every patient we treat.

© San Diego Cardiac Center. All Rights Reserved. Web Design & Internet Marketing by Studio III

Terms & Conditions Privacy Policy

Contact Us