Peripheral Vascular Procedures

In this procedure, a guidewire is threaded through a special catheter into the blocked artery. Using the guidewire, the doctor can then direct one or more tools to the area to break up blockages and remove plaque. One is a high-speed rotating burr that grinds the plaque into very tiny pieces. Another is a small rotating cutter that shaves off pieces of the blockage. Still another is a laser catheter that vaporizes plaque.

Intravascular ultrasound is an imaging study that uses a special catheter fitted with a miniaturized ultrasound probe. Once inserted, the probe shows the endothelium (inner wall) of an artery to help determine both plaque volume within the artery wall and the degree of stenosis (narrowing) in the artery lumen (the open central space for blood flow).

Like coronary angioplasty, this nonsurgical procedure improves blood flow to your extremities by opening arteries that are narrowed or blocked by plaque buildup. It may be used to relieve symptoms of peripheral vascular disease or to reduce leg pain and increase the circulation in your legs. During the test, the doctor will insert a catheter into an artery, then inject a contrast dye to help guide the catheter to the blockage.

In a process similar to cardiac catheterization, this dye study outlines other arteries in the body, usually those that supply the blood to the head and neck or the abdomen and legs. The doctor injects a contrast material into the artery to make the blood flow visible on radiographs and helps identify narrowing or blockages that may be present. Test results will allow your doctor to plan the next step in your treatment.

A stent is a small mesh tube used to treat narrow, blocked, or weak arteries. A stent is placed in an artery as part of a procedure called coronary angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to restore blood flow and support the inner wall of the artery. Doctors also place stents in weak arteries to improve blood flow and help prevent the arteries from bursting.

Types of stents

Most stents are made of metal mesh, but fabric stents, also called stent grafts, can be used in larger arteries. Some stents are coated with medicine that is slowly and continuously released into the artery; these are called drug-eluting stents. The medicine helps prevent the artery from becoming blocked again.

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