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(See also Peripheral Arterial Disease, Arteriogram, Angioplasty, Stenting, Amputation)

An atherectomy is a procedure in which a vascular surgeon removes a build up of plaque in the arteries through a minimally invasive endovascular procedure.

As you age, atherosclerotic plaque (made of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue) builds up in your arteries.  This causes the walls of your arteries to narrow and stiffen which in turn can restrict blood flow by creating a blockage.  The arteries are responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood to your organs (such as your brain, heart and kidneys) as well as other areas of your body i.e. your legs.  This blockage can be severely detrimental to your overall health causing pain, paralysis, and even death.  The common terms for this condition depending on its location are peripheral arterial disease, coronary artery disease, or carotid artery disease.

Previously the most common method of treating this type of blockage was to undergo open surgery.  However, new developments have allowed for safer, and less invasive options.   The first developed options were angioplasty or stenting which achieved redistribution of the plaque, or insertion of a device which prevented the artery from closing completely.  The most recent development, however, known as an atherectomy removes the plaque from the artery.  This achieves the same result of the surgical option (endarterectomy) but with the safety and convenience of a minimally invasive endovascular procedure.

During an atherectomy, a vascular surgeon inserts a specialized catheter into the blocked artery.  The catheter contains a special device (such as a blade, a grinding bit, or laser filament) which is used to remove the plaque.  Some also contain a collection system to prevent it from escaping into another section of artery.

Because of the specialized nature of the procedure, you should always seek a board certified vascular surgeon for evaluation and treatment planning.  A vascular surgeon will be able to determine the best option as he or she is qualified in all surgical and minimally invasive procedures for the treatment of vascular disease.

Examples of Atherectomies Performed at Coastal Vein & Vascular:

Pathways Navitus Rotational Atherectomy:

Covidien SilverHawk Directional Atherectomy: