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Complications of Atherectomy

As with any surgery, it is possible for complications of atherectomy to occur, either during or after the procedure. These complications can include infections, blood clots, abnormal heartbeat, bleeding, kidney failure, and heart attack. However, the chances of these happening are slim. You are more likely to develop complications of atherectomy if you already have existing medical conditions or are in poor health.

Complications of Atherectomy: An Overview

No procedure is completely free of risks; however, atherectomies have been performed safely for many years, with successful results and limited complications.

Minor Complications of Atherectomy

Minor complications of atherectomy may include:
  • Temporary pain
  • Minor infections
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Reaction to medications or dye
  • Allergic skin reaction to tape, dressing, or latex
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Bruising or scarring at the catheter entry site.
These minor complications are temporary in most cases, and are often easily treated by your healthcare providers.

Major Complications of Atherectomy

There are also several major complications of atherectomy that may occur during or after the procedure. These are uncommon; however, your overall health is a factor in whether these complications will occur. For example, the average risk of having a heart attack during an atherectomy is 5 out of 10,000 patients. In seriously ill patients, the risk increases to greater than 10 in 10,000 patients. In healthier patients, the risk decreases to 1 in 10,000 patients.
Major complications can include, but are not limited to:
  • Serious bleeding
  • Heart or lung problems, including irregular heart rhythm and lung or heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Artery reclosure
  • No reflow
  • Blood vessel, nerve, or organ damage
  • Blood clots
  • Failure of medical equipment
  • Serious allergic reactions to medication or dye
  • Kidney failure, with possible dialysis
  • Other rare and unlikely events.
Depending on your situation, a major complication may lead to a longer hospital stay, coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG), intra-aortic balloon pump surgery, or insertion of a temporary pacemaker. In extreme cases, major complications of atherectomy may cause permanent disability or even loss of life. Loss of life with atherectomy, however, occurs in only about 1 in 1,000 surgeries.
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