Peripheral Artery Angioplasty and Atherectomy

Laser atherectomy is a new and efficient method of removing plaque from blood vessels clogged by peripheral artery disease. Peripheral artery disease or PAD, also known as peripheral vascular disease or PVD, is caused by atherosclerosis, a condition in which the arteries become clogged with plaque and blood flow is impeded. PAD most frequently occurs in the legs, but can occur elsewhere in the body. Arterial plaque, made up of cholesterol and other substances, usually forms in arteries already narrowed and hardened by the process of arteriosclerosis, a normal part of aging.

During a laser atherectomy, a thin catheter is inserted and moved through the artery to the site of the arterial blockage. High-energy laser light beams emitted through the catheter are aimed at the blockage and the plaque is vaporized. Once the plaque is dissolved, the remaining traces are removed by the catheter or, if small enough, simply permitted to circulate through the blood stream.

The procedure is usually performed under sedation and local anesthesia. Laser atherectomy may be performed alone or in combination with an angioplasty. In some cases, a contrast dye is employed to assist the doctor in visualizing the surgical site. The laser atherectomy procedure takes an hour or two to perform, depending on the complexity of the individual case. Since it is minimally invasive, the patient is most often able to return home later on the same day.

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