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Treatment / Atherectomy

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) refers to arterial disease that occurs outside of the heart or the brain. In patients with PAD, arteries become narrowed or blocked, usually as a result of plaque buildup. Peripheral artery disease primarily impacts the arteries in the legs.

What are the Treatment Options for Peripheral Artery Disease?

Lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes, exercise and smoking cessation are recommended for patients with early stage PAD. For patients with disease that requires intervention, the following treatments can be used to restore blood flow:

  • Angioplasty – uses imaging guidance to insert a balloon-tipped catheter into a narrow or blocked blood vessel where the balloon is inflated to open the vessel and improve blood flow. In some cases, stents are used to keep the artery open.
  • Catheter Directed Thrombolysis and Thrombectomy – minimally invasive treatment options that use medication directed into the clot using a mechanical device to break up and dissolve abnormal blood clots.
  • Atherectomy – minimally invasive procedure that uses a small blade or laser to remove the arterial plaque.

Am I a Candidate for Atherectomy?

When you come in to be treated for peripheral artery disease, your doctor will talk to you about your medical history and perform diagnostic testing, which may include an ankle-brachial index (ABI) or a vascular ultrasound. Once it is determined that you are a good candidate, the next step is scheduling the treatment.

An atherectomy may be a recommended treatment for PAD when angioplasty and stenting are not possible due to location of the buildup, or when the plaque is too hardened or severe to be flattened using angioplasty or stent devices alone. In these cases, atherectomy is frequently used as a preliminary step prior to angioplasty or stenting.

The procedure can also be helpful for treating blockages in arteries that occur around branches or in vessels that are not easily treated with stents.

What to Expect from the Procedure

When you come in for your procedure, you will either have local anesthesia with sedation, or general anesthesia – whatever you and your vascular and interventional radiologist (VIR) have discussed. Using image guidance your doctor will insert a catheter into the artery through a small puncture. The catheter tip has a sharp blade on the end to remove plaque from the blood vessel and is designed to collect the removed plaque in a chamber, which allows removal of the plaque as the device is removed from the artery. The process can be repeated to remove a significant amount of disease from the artery, eliminating a blockage from atherosclerotic disease.


Atherectomy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure and typically lasts about an hour. After your treatment, you will rest in a recovery area for a while before being sent home. Patients are asked to gradually increase mobility, initially lying flat for a few hours, then sitting up. Patients are typically walking between 6 to 24 hours after the procedure with normal activity being resumed with in 24 to 48 hours.

There are minimal complications associated with atherectomy, in rare cases embolization (the dislodgement of debris that blocks the arteries in the lower part of the leg) and perforation can occur.

Whether or not you are a candidate will depend on our diagnosis and consultation with your interventional radiologist. But if you have been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease and are looking for a minimally invasive treatment option to restore blood flow and relieve your symptoms, atherectomy may be a good option. Call IVC today at 503-612-0498 to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also read our brochure on Peripheral Arterial Disease.

* This information about Atherectomy was reviewed by Dr. Jason R. Bauer. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us using the form below.

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We are announcing that Interventional and Vascular Consultants will be closing as of March 10, 2023.

We would like to thank you for the trust you have given us over the years, participating in your healthcare needs has been a privilege.

To assist in a smooth transition to a new provider, you may access your records from your MyHealth account or request a copy of medical records by clicking the link below and completing the Release of Information form.

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Please know that we have greatly valued our relationship with you and wish you the best.


Jason Bauer, MD RVT
Michael Pfister, MD RVT

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