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Atherectomy and angioplasty are methods that can be used to open arteries without surgery.
There are several different devices that can be threaded through blood vessels to the site of a narrowing or occlusion. Once there, these devices remove the obstruction so that blood flow is restored.
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What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
You will be thoroughly evaluated before deciding on the best procedure. This may involve contrast x-rays, ultrasound, or computerized scans (eg, CTA or MRA ) to identify the area or areas of concern. You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the procedure.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
- Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
You will most likely be sedated but not put to sleep. A local anesthetic will numb the site of insertion of the device.
Description of the Procedure
You will be lying down. The room will have x-ray machines as well as an array of surgical equipment. Depending on the artery to be opened, a blood vessel in your groin or arm will be prepared and covered with sterile drapes. Your doctor will puncture your numbed skin. A catheter (tube) will be placed into your blood vessel and passed to the site of the obstruction. Contrast material may be injected through the catheter to visualize the obstruction on the x-rays. There may be more than one location that require opening. The device used will depend on the type of obstruction and location in the vessel. Possible approaches include:
- Angioplasty —A balloon is inflated to open the vessel.
- Angioplasty and stent placement —After the balloon is used, a stent (mesh frame) will be placed in the vessel to support the walls.
- Atherectomy—The plaque on the walls of the vessels is shaved or lasered.
Immediately After Procedure
Recovery time is minimal. You will be moved to another room to recover.
How Long Will It Take?
Between 30 minutes and two hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Some minor discomfort may accompany the procedure.
Average Hospital Stay
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. You may need to stay overnight. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
- You will need to lie flat for a period of time if the groin was used as an entry site.
- You may need to have pressure applied to the entry site to control bleeding.
- If you notice any swelling, bleeding, black and blue marks, or pain where the catheter was inserted, tell the nurse.
- You will be encouraged to drink a lot of fluids to flush the contrast material from your system.
- There will be a bandage over the puncture site. You may be prescribed a blood thinner, such as aspirin. Certain strenuous activities will be limited. Other activities, including exercises and fluid intake, may be encouraged. Your doctor will want to see you several days or weeks later.
After the procedure, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
Society for Vascular Surgery
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Angioplasty.org website. Available at:
. Accessed August 19, 2005.
Bettmann MA, et al. Carotid stenting and angioplasty: a statement for healthcare professionals from the Councils on Cardiovascular Radiology, Stroke, Cardio-Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, Epidemiology, and Prevention, and Clinical Cardiology, American Heart Association.
Society of Interventional Radiology website. Available at:
. Accessed August 21, 2005.