Key Points about Atherectomy for Peripheral and Coronary Arterial Disease

  • Atherectomy is a procedure in which a doctor removes plaque (buildup of cholesterol, fats and other substances) from your arteries, improving blood flow. 
  • People who have peripheral arterial disease or coronary arterial disease are likely to need the procedure. 
  • Atherectomy is performed in the hospital. You will be under sedation during the procedure. 
  • In most cases, people will spend the night in the hospital following atherectomy.


Plaque naturally builds up over time in the arteries. In some people, this buildup can reduce or block blood flow. Atherectomy is done to help improve blood flow.

Candidates for atherectomy treatment

If you have peripheral arterial disease or coronary arterial disease, your cardiologist may recommend you undergo atherectomy to help open up your blocked arteries.

Preparing for atherectomy treatment

Atherectomy is performed in the hospital, and you will be under sedation to help you relax. You will receive local anesthesia, which numbs the area where your surgeon makes an incision for the procedure.

Expectations during atherectomy treatment

Your surgeon begins by making a small incision in an artery – typically in your groin or upper thigh area. A catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted into the incision and is threaded through your blood vessel and into your heart. Once the catheter is in place, your surgeon injects contrast dye into the catheter. 

Using an X-ray machine and viewing computer, your surgeon locates the area or areas of blockage in the arteries. Using a laser or tiny blade on the end of the catheter, your surgeon will remove plaque from your arteries. Once enough plaque is removed, allowing for improved blood flow, your surgeon removes the catheter and closes the incision with a bandage.

Recovery from atherectomy treatment

You can expect to remain in the recovery room for a few hours while the anesthesia wears off. Your team will monitor you closely during your recovery. Most people will spend one night in the hospital following atherectomy. Your care team will provide you with specific aftercare instructions. Most people can resume their normal activities within a week.

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