Coronary Atherectomy

Coronary atherectomy is a procedure utilized to restore normal blood flow through a blocked vessel by removing the fatty material (plaque) causing the blockage. This is in contrast to angioplasty and stenting during which the blockage is “flattened” and the blood vessel reshaped by the pressure exerted by the balloon or stent. Atherectomy is performed by several different techniques but they are similar in that they are performed with catheter techniques rather than surgery. One technique is to use a drill type burr that grinds the plaque away and second is to use a rotating “knife” that shaves the plaque away which is then extracted from the blood vessel.

Figure 1: Coronary artery of the heart with atherosclerotic plaque.

Figure 2: Artery with fatty material (plaque) reducing blood flow through the vessel.

Figure 3: Coronary atherectomy device removing fatty material from the wall of the artery.


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