Atherectomy Procedure | Heart & Vascular | Loyola Medicine


What to Expect with Atherectomy

If you and your doctor determine that atherectomy is the right treatment for you, the procedure will be performed under local anesthesia with a mild sedative. 

Your highly skilled vascular surgeon will insert a catheter equipped with a sharp blade at its tip, guided by X-ray technology, and advance it through your artery until it reaches the area of narrowing. Your surgeon will then scrape away the plaque with the catheter blade. The surgeon may need to pass the catheter multiple times in order to remove a significant amount of atherosclerosis.

Minimally Invasive Procedure to Treat Coronary Artery Disease

Atherectomy is one of the many cardiac procedures performed by the highly trained specialists at Loyola Medicine. Atherectomy is a procedure used to remove plaque and open narrowed coronary arteries to clear heart blockages and increase blood flow. 
Atherectomy is a minimally invasive, catheter-based treatment for atherosclerosis and peripheral artery disease in the lower extremities. The goal of treatment is to clear your blocked artery, which restricts the flow of blood to tissues, causing the muscles of the lower extremities to cramp and lose strength. An atherectomy is especially helpful for treating blockages in arteries that occur around branches or in vessels that are not easily treated with stents.

Doctors at Loyola utilize special tools to remove plaque buildup from artery walls. There are four types of atherectomy devices:

  • Directional — A small device is pushed against the plaque to cut it away
  • Laser — A laser, rather than a scalpel, is used to remove buildup
  • Orbital — A rotating tip is attached to a catheter to remove plaque within the artery
  • Rotablation — Involves the use of a special burr or drill on the tip of a catheter and is used to remove plaque that is hardened or calcified

Our expert team of cardiologists and peripheral vascular surgeons are trained in evaluating, diagnosing and treating patients with varying degrees of atherosclerosis and can tailor the best treatment plan for you. 

Risks of Atherectomy

The side effects of atherectomy are minimal; but as with any surgery, complications may arise. Although very rare, complications may include:

  • Embolization, or closure of the blood vessel
  • Perforation, or a small hole
  • Restenosis, or re-blockage of the artery

Your risk for complications is reduced when a specially trained cardiologist performs the procedure.