Angioplasty & Atherectomy: Treating Blocked Arteries Without Surgery

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Chest pain and pressure are scary signs of atherosclerosis. It’s a build-up of plaque on the walls of your arteries. Plaque in your arteries makes it harder for blood to get to where it should go, like your heart muscle. When that happens, you can’t get enough oxygen (called ischemia).

About half of Americans ages 45-84 have atherosclerosis but don't know it. If not treated, atherosclerosis can cause a heart attack or stroke.

With angioplasty and atherectomy, we can get blood flowing through your arteries again without surgery. Using small tubes that move through your blood vessels, we can work on the plaque to clear any blocked blood vessels.

Angioplasty & Atherectomy Experts at UVA Health

At UVA Health, our experienced doctors, surgeons, and nurses give you the latest and best treatments for your heart disease. In fact, we've been nationally recognized several times for our heart services, including our heart attack care. For instance, Becker’s Hospital Review named UVA Health’s Heart & Vascular Center to its 2023 list of 100 hospitals and health systems with great heart programs.

See our other awards and recognitions.

What Happens During Angioplasty & Atherectomy?

An atherectomy or angioplasty can take between 30 minutes and 2 hours.

During the procedure, we put a small tube (called a catheter) into a blood vessel in your arm or groin. We may also put a dye into your blood to help us see any blockages on x-rays.

The procedure we use depends on the types of blockages you have and where they are. We might use:

  • Angioplasty (a balloon is inflated to push the plaque aside and open your artery)
  • Angioplasty with stent placement (after the balloon, we place a metal frame the holds the artery open)
  • Atherectomy (a shaver or laser cuts the plaque away)

Recovery time is short. You may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

What Should I Watch Out for After an Angioplasty & Atherectomy?

Be sure to follow any care instructions we give you after the procedure.

Call your doctor if you see or feel:

  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, heavy bleeding, or discharge at the wound site
  • Signs of infection, including fever and/or chills
  • Extreme sweating, nausea, or vomiting
  • Leg or arm feels cold, turns white or blue, or becomes numb or tingly
  • Extreme pain, including chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing

If you think it’s an emergency, call for medical help right away.

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