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Coronary Atherectomy

Outline of woman showing major arteries and veins, heart, and possible catheter insertion sites.
Insertion sites may be in the groin or the arm.
Atherectomy is a procedure that relieves symptoms of coronary artery disease by improving blood flow to your heart.

During the Procedure

  • 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 (a thin, flexible tube) 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 special atherectomy catheter carrying a grinding device is positioned at the narrow spot in your coronary artery.

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

After the Procedure

  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • 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 remain in the hospital for several hours or overnight.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • 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 experience blood in your urine, black or tarry stools, or any other kind of bleeding.

  • You have a fever over 101°F (38.3°C).

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2/20/2014
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