Most people with lower extremity arterial disease are treated successfully with atherectomy. The procedure involves clearing a clogged artery by shaving, cutting, or vaporizing plaque, a waxy substance composed of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other materials in the blood.
Before the procedure begins, you receive a local anesthetic, plus a mild sedative. You may also receive an injection of contrast dye, which allows the doctor to view the blockage on an X-ray. The surgeon then inserts a catheter, a thin tube, into the groin above the femoral artery—the major artery that brings blood to the leg. The surgeon guides the catheter to the blocked artery and removes the plaque using a tool attached to the tip of the catheter.
The surgeon may then perform other procedures, such as balloon angioplasty and stenting, which help prevent future blockages.