Atherectomy involves techniques similar to those used for angioplasty. The difference is that atherectomy uses a cutting device (a blade or a whirling blade) to remove the plaque buildup from the artery wall. See a picture of types of atherectomy of a coronary artery.
After an atherectomy, you will be moved to a recovery room or to the coronary care unit. Your heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure will be closely monitored, and the catheter insertion site will be checked for bleeding. To prevent bleeding, you may have a large bandage or a compression device on the catheter insertion site. You will be instructed to keep your leg straight if the insertion site is in your groin area.
You most likely will start walking within 12 to 24 hours after an atherectomy. The average hospital stay is 1 to 2 days for uncomplicated procedures. After several days, you may resume exercise and driving.
After atherectomy you will most likely take medicine, such as ASA and another antiplatelet such as clopidogrel, to help prevent the formation of blood clots.
Atherectomy is a procedure used to open up narrowed coronary arteries to increase blood flow. It might be done if an artery has hard plaque with a lot of calcium. Atherectomy may make it easier for your doctor to place a stent in the artery.
Atherectomy can work as well as angioplasty to widen narrowed arteries. Atherectomy might be done along with stenting. This can help keep the artery from narrowing again.1
Risks of atherectomy may include:
Another risk is that small pieces of plaque that are cut off during atherectomy can lodge in smaller arteries and damage heart tissue. But the latest devices used for atherectomy can filter or capture these small pieces and remove them from the blood.
The risk for complications during atherectomy can be reduced if it is performed by a cardiologist who is experienced with the procedure.
Atherectomy is not done for most people who have angioplasty. But in certain cases, it might help your doctor open up a narrowed artery. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about risks of having atherectomy.
Last Revised: April 12, 2012
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