Atherectomy is a true breakthrough treatment for coronary artery disease (CAD). Doctors insert tiny blades or rotating cutters into heart arteries to remove plaque (atheroma). Plaque is cholesterol and other fatty substances that accumulate in the inner lining of the artery—a condition known as atherosclerosis, “hardening of the arteries," or coronary artery disease. The removal process is performed in Harrison’s catheterization lab (cath lab) by our experienced interventional cardiologists.
Atherectomy often is part of an angioplasty procedure. In traditional angioplasty, the plaque is compressed into the arterial wall, but an atherectomy actually cuts away and removes fatty plaque to widen the artery and improve blood flow. A catheter is inserted into an artery—usually in the groin—but sometimes in the arm or wrist. The catheter is advanced to the heart, and coronary angiograms (X-ray images of blood vessels filled with contrast material) are taken to clearly visualize the narrowed heart artery. Then a separate catheter with a cutting device is advanced to the heart, and into the narrowed coronary artery, where it cuts away at the plaque, widening the artery so blood flow improves.
The physician will choose one of three different devices to perform atherectomy:
Stenting often is done after the procedure to ensure good blood flow in the future. Atherectomy procedures are an important adjunct to our routine balloon angioplasties, including endovascular procedures, and comprise 10 to 20 percent of Harrison’s plaque-modifying therapies.
What to expect