Peripheral Atherectomy Q & A
What is Peripheral Atherectomy?
An atherectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that removes plaque inside a blood vessel. A specialized catheter holds the surgical instrument and collects the plaque, so it’s safely carried out of the artery. Once the procedure is over, blood flow is restored. Peripheral atherectomies refer to procedures performed in the peripheral arteries of the legs and feet.
Although atherosclerosis is usually described as an accumulation of cholesterol, calcium is also part of the buildup, which is why the mass eventually hardens. When your atherosclerosis is too hard to be removed using other methods, the doctors at Vascular Health Institute can perform a minimally invasive atherectomy to cut away the plaque buildup.
What conditions are treated with atherectomy?
The doctor performs atherectomy to treat peripheral artery disease, which affects your legs.
Over time, calcium combines with the fatty buildup, making it harden into plaque that blocks blood flow (a condition called atherosclerosis).
Atherosclerosis is often treated with angioplasty, using a balloon to open the blockage. Some patients, however, have plaque that’s too hard to treat with a balloon. When that happens, the doctor may recommend atherectomy.
How is atherectomy performed?
An atherectomy is performed using a narrow catheter that contains a high-speed rotational, diamond-tipped burr, or a specialized tool that shaves the plaque away and collects it. The doctor inserts the catheter into an artery, then threads it through the artery to the blockage.
Once it reaches the blockage, dye is injected through the catheter, allowing an X-ray to show the precise location and size of the blockage. Then the device is activated, and the plaque is removed. Following your atherectomy, a stent may be placed in the artery to hold it open.
It’s also possible to perform an extraction atherectomy using a laser rather than a rotational device. The procedure is the same, with the laser contained in a catheter that’s guided through the artery, except the laser vaporizes the plaque.
What should you expect after an atherectomy?
We provide specific self-care directions to follow after your atherectomy.
You’ll also need to take medications to prevent blood clots for a prescribed length of time. The doctor may also recommend other types of lifestyle changes and/or rehabilitation to restore optimal strength after your atherosclerosis is treated.
If you have questions about your vascular health or about atherectomy, call the Vascular Health Institute at (469) 436-3650, or book an appointment online.