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Coronary Atherectomy

If you have buildup or plaque in your coronary arteries, you may be fatigued, short of breath, have dizziness and weakness in your legs. These plaques can be removed through a procedure called coronary atherectomy. This minimally invasive procedure is done primarily on blocked arteries that are not easily reached or able to be treated with stents. In these cases, a catheter equipped with a rotary blade removes the plaque in the artery or blood vessel so the blood can flow correctly from your heart.

Before the procedure, you will be given a mild sedative through an intravenous (IV) line, and the catheter insertion site – either the arm or groin – will be numbed. Your cardiologist will insert the catheter into the site and advance it to the blockage. The catheter tip breaks up the plaque buildup as it is removed from the artery or vessel walls. The procedure can be repeated several times to ensure that blood flow can return to normal.

After the procedure, you will lie flat for up to six hours to allow for recovery. In most cases, you will remain in the hospital for one to two days. Your heart rate, pulse and blood pressure will be monitored during this time and your nursing team will check the catheter insertion site for bleeding. Sometimes, patients will wear a compression bag to reduce the risk for bleeding.

Once home, you will need to rest for a couple of days. Your cardiologist will advise when you are able to return to normal activities such as driving or lifting heavy objects.

How to prepare for an Atherectomy 

Do not eat or drink after midnight on the evening before the procedure. Take your regular medications, but only have a small amount of water to take pills. If you take blood thinners or have diabetes, talk with your doctor about any special instructions.

Make sure that you bring a driver with you because you cannot drive home. You will be able to resume driving and normal activities on the day after the cardioversion.

Your doctor will talk with you about the results of the atherectomy and let you know how you can continue to care for your heart health. Lifestyle modifications – such as exercise, eating a healthy, lower fat diet and stop smoking – will help prevent plaque or build-up from recurring in your arteries.