An atherectomy is performed to remove buildup of fats and cholesterol (plaque) from an artery. This is done by using a shaver to cut the plaque away. Usually, the procedure is performed during a left heart catheterization or a peripheral arteriogram procedure to open up partially blocked arteries in the heart or legs.

  • Why you are having this procedure: Your physician might schedule this procedure for symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or leg pain that is felt to be due to a partially blocked artery in your heart or legs. 
  • Prep for the procedure: Do not to eat or drink for 8 to 12 hours prior to the procedure. You will need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home following the procedure.
  • What to expect: Prior to the procedure, you will be given a sedative which will cause drowsiness in order to relax you; however, we will be able to arouse you should it be necessary. The area where the catheter will be inserted is then numbed with a local anesthetic, the catheter is inserted, and the procedure performed. 
  • Risks: Complications from this procedure are rare, and the risk of death is very low. Possible risks include: 
  1. allergic reaction to the dye which can be treated with medicine; 
  2. damage to the kidneys from the dye; 
  3. irregular heart rhythms which can be treated with medicine; 
  4. bleeding can occur at the site where the catheter is inserted; 
  5. although uncommon, blood clots can form around the catheter or clumps of plaque can be knocked loose from the walls of the arteries during the procedure and can trigger a heart attack or a stroke.
  • Post procedure instructions/limitations: Refrain from heavy lifting, greater than 5 pounds, for approximately 1 week after the procedure due to possible bleeding from the site where the catheter was inserted. In order to avoid infection, do not take a tub bath until the site where the catheter was inserted is healed. You can usually return to your normal activities over approximately 1 week.
  • When to call your cardiologist: You should call your cardiologist immediately and/or return to the emergency department immediately if you experience acute onset of chest pain and/or shortness of breath or if you experience rapid swelling or bleeding at the site where the catheter was inserted.
  • Miscellaneous: Please follow all the instructions provided by your healthcare provider.