Atherosclerosis is a dangerous condition resulting from deposits of plaque inside the walls of your arteries. This plaque buildup prevents the delivery of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, brain, and other vital areas of the body, potentially resulting in heart attack, stroke, or even death.
In advanced stages, atherosclerosis can be very difficult to treat. Before, hardened plaque was nearly impossible to remove and treatment was limited to very risky procedures. The precarious areas where this buildup occurred often limited available treatments and made the procedure more difficult.
However, this new technology can “eat” bad arterial plaque and completely clean your arteries:
Then came the advent of a surgery called atherectomy (at-her-ec-toe-me), a minimally invasive procedure that can potentially treat advanced atherosclerosis. As opposed to traditional procedures, such as angioplasty and stents, atherectomy completely cuts away plaque buildup as opposed to simply moving or removing it.
For someone to be a good candidate for the cutting-edge procedure, a severe narrowing of the arteries must exist. If not, traditional surgical methods such as angioplasty or stenting would be used. Further, bypass surgery must be ruled out as an option. In other words, atherectomy is a last resort; albeit probably the safest “last resort” procedure in history.
Atherectomy is generally used when angioplasty or stenting is not an option. This determination is made with a few variables in mind – anatomical features, location of blockage or plaque hardness is usually a determinant. Atherectomy can also be used as a complementary procedure to traditional surgical methods, potentially increasing the odds of success.
The amazing aspect of this cutting-edge surgery is the intricacy and exactness of it – blood vessels and arteries are not very large. So, how can a tool that cuts away at material inside of one be feasible? In a word: technology…in two more words: good doctor.
Once the patient is in the operating room, they will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area being worked on. The patient is awake and sedated during through the duration of the surgery.
Once sedated, the surgeon inserts a thin wire into the blocked artery via a needle inserted into a blood vessel in the groin. After this, the surgeon will insert dye into the artery while x-rays are taken and examined while the dye continues to move through the body. These x-ray images provide the surgeon with the exact location where the catheter is to be inserted and maneuvered.
The catheter inserted contains a cutting blade, grinding device or laser filament that is used to remove the plaque. The device also contains a collection or suctioning system that effectively removes the debris. In some instances, the surgeon may opt to insert a stent at the location of the blockage to reduce the likelihood of another blockage.
Another remarkable aspect of this procedure is the healing time – 12 to 24 hours. Not days or weeks, as most surgeries generally require. A patient is usually able to continue with normal activity within a day or two.
Finally, doctors have seen tremendous results with the procedure. Very few risks exist for someone who opts for an atherectomy.
Here’s a video demonstrating a concept of the procedure:
The prolific threat from atherosclerosis is apparent when looking at the facts:
– It is the most common cause of cardiovascular diseases: heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease
– Cardiovascular disease kills over 800,000 people a year, the most common cause of death.
Of course, preventative care is the best care. This is certainly the case for atherosclerosis, an often deadly and debilitating disease. Good preventative care requires the determination risk factors – the symptoms that often culminate in the surfacing of a serious condition.
Atherosclerosis is progressive, but preventable. The disease’s nine risk factors account for approximately 90% of all heart attacks. These risk factors include:
– High cholesterol
– High blood pressure
– Abdominal obesity
– Not eating fruits and vegetables
– Excess alcohol intake
– Not exercising regularly
Once a blockage occurs, it is almost always permanent. Therefore, it is very important to mitigate potentially damaging consequences by making lifestyle changes. Of course, this condition mandates a healthy diet, regular exercise and no smoking. While these changes will not eliminate the blockages, they are known to drastically lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.