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Atherectomy is the overall name for two different procedures using tools to remove plaque from the inside of the coronary arteries. Rotational atherectomy (also called Rotoblator) uses a high-speed, spinning burr, which pulverizes the plaque into tiny particles that pass harmlessly into the circulation. Directional atherectomy uses a small, cylindrical rotating cutting blade to shave plaque from the inside walls of coronary arteries. After being shaved from the artery wall, this plaque is stored safely in the tip of the catheter and removed from the body. The size and location of narrowing in your arteries determines whether and which of these procedures should be done. Sometimes, coronary angioplasty is performed immediately after an atherectomy.


Why is it performed?

Atherectomy is done to widen narrowed or obstructed coronary arteries that are impairing the flow of blood, in order to restore adequate oxygen and nutrition to the heart muscle. It can alleviate symptoms of angina and helps to prevent heart attacks.

What is experienced?

The first steps are similar to cardiac catheterization — a procedure in which a catheter (a long, thin, hollow, flexible plastic tube) is inserted into an artery in the groin in order to thread it to the heart. The atherectomy catheter is guided to the heart along a wire that was to gain access to the heart’s circulation. A hot sensation may be experienced for 30 seconds when contrast dye is released into the heart and cardiac images are taken.


The procedure takes place in the catheterization laboratory. In the pre-procedure area, medical personnel review the medical history and administer a mild relaxing sedative. The remainder of the procedure is similar to an angioplasty.


The patient is returned to the holding area for monitoring before transferring to a cardiac care unit. Post-procedure care is the same as angioplasty.

Throughout this recovery period, inform the medical staff if you experience pain, bleeding at the insertion site, lightheadedness or dizziness.

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