Coronary Atherectomy

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Coronary atherectomy is performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. We use advanced equipment and techniques that enable us to perform procedures in the least invasive manner possible.

What Is Coronary Atherectomy?

A coronary atherectomy is a minimally invasive procedure similar to a coronary angioplasty, except that in an atherectomy your surgeon uses a special cutting device at the end of a catheter to remove plaque buildup from artery walls. The procedure is sometimes used along with balloon angioplasty.

What Conditions Does Coronary Atherectomy Treat?

A coronary atherectomy removes blockages from coronary (heart) arteries and improves blood flow to your heart. It helps relieve symptoms of coronary heart disease and helps prevent heart attacks. Atherectomy is sometimes used to remove plaque buildup after coronary artery bypass graft surgery and to treat peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

What to Expect

Learn what happens during an atherectomy and the recovery time.


You will remain awake during the procedure. However, you will be given a mild sedative to help you relax and an injection to numb the puncture site. Your surgeon inserts a catheter (thin, flexible tube) into an artery in your groin, leg, or arm. The catheter is threaded through your blood vessels into your blocked artery.

A cutting device attached to the tip of the catheter is used to grind up or remove the plaque.


After the procedure, you will be moved to the Coronary Care Unit to be monitored. The average hospital stay for an atherectomy is 1-2 days. After several days, you may be able to resume exercise and driving.

Your doctor will prescribe medication to help prevent blood clots from forming and will discuss a recovery plan with you, including a healthy diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.