An atherectomy is a procedure used to remove hardened blockages in the arteries of your heart. In some cases, your doctor may place a stent in your artery to help keep it open for a longer time. As with any surgery, complications can occur with an atherectomy, such as infections, blood clots, and kidney failure. However, these are rare.
What Is an Atherectomy?
If you have been experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, lightheadedness, breathing problems, or fainting spells because of a heart condition, your doctor may recommend a balloon angioplasty with a possible atherectomy. A balloon angioplasty (also known as just angioplasty) is a procedure that allows your doctor to open blocked coronary arteries, which are the arteries that provide oxygen and nutrients to your heart muscle.
If your doctor finds hardened blockages in your coronary arteries, an atherectomy may be used to remove the blockages with a special pulverizing device. In many cases, an expandable device, called a stent, is inserted into your blocked artery after this procedure. Stents can help the artery remain open for a longer period of time.
Your doctor's choice to perform any of these procedures is based on the type and location of your blockage.
In addition to their effectiveness, these procedures are well tolerated and generally safe.
(Click Atherectomy Procedure for more detailed information about the procedure itself.)
What Happens Before the Procedure?
You will be given specific instructions on preparing for atherectomy and what to expect the day of and the days following the procedure. You will also be asked not to eat or drink anything at least eight hours beforehand.
You will be given drugs and fluids through an IV during your atherectomy, and a pulse oximeter, which is a measuring device that checks oxygen levels in your blood, will be taped to your finger.
You will be covered with sterile sheets, and the catheter entry site will be the only area exposed.
In many cases, a stent will be inserted into your blocked artery after the atherectomy. As mentioned, stents can help the artery remain open for a longer period of time.