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Coronary Atherectomy

Outline of woman showing major arteries and veins, heart, and possible catheter insertion sites.

What is coronary atherectomy?

Atherectomy is a procedure that relieves symptoms of coronary artery disease by improving blood flow to your heart. It is done using a small, thin tube (catheter) inserted into a blood vessel and guided to the blocked blood vessel. There, a device is used to grind or vaporize the plaque buildup to improve blood flow. It may be used instead of coronary angioplasty.

What happens during an atherectomy?

  • The skin at the insertion site (usually the groin) is numbed with a local anesthetic. A needle puncture is made so the catheter can be inserted. 

  • A guide wire is inserted through the guiding catheter and moved to the narrow spot in your artery. Your doctor tracks its movement on an angiogram, a special kind of X-ray.

  • Then, a catheter with a grinding device at the tip is positioned at the narrow spot in your coronary artery.

  • An abrasive burr at the tip of the catheter grinds the plaque into small particles that float harmlessly away in the bloodstream.

What happens after an atherectomy?

  • You will need to lie down and keep the insertion site still for a period of time.

  • If the insertion site was in your groin, you may need to lie down with your leg still for several hours.

  • A nurse will check the insertion site and your blood pressure. Before going home, you may have a chest X-ray and other tests.

  • You usually stay in the hospital for several hours or overnight.

When to call the healthcare provider

Contact your healthcare provider if any of these occur:

  • You have angina (chest pain)

  • The insertion site has pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or drainage

  • You have severe pain, coldness, or a bluish color in the leg or arm that held the catheter

  • You have blood in your urine, black or tarry stools, or any other kind of bleeding

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

 

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