Peripheral Arterial Disease Treatments: What Is Laser Atherectomy?

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
July 19, 2021

Arteries are thick-walled blood vessels. They carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to surrounding organs and cells. When properly functioning, they allow the smooth passage of blood. They are part of the circulatory system and play a vital role in having a healthy heart.

It is important to avoid factors that cause damage to the arterial walls, as this can lead to inadequate blood supply distribution. Clogged arteries can place you at risk for a stroke or myocardial infarction.


Cholesterol and calcium accumulate along the vessel walls, creating plaque in the arteries. The walls narrow from the build-up causing partial to complete blockage. This is called atherosclerosis, often referred to as hardening of the arteries.

In some cases, atherosclerosis is genetically passed down. It is also a naturally occurring consequence of aging. Diet and lifestyle have shown to start and worsen its progression.

Causes of plaque buildup include:

● Elevated blood pressure

● Elevated cholesterol

● Elevated blood sugar

● Tobacco use

● Alcohol use

● Obesity.

● Unhealthy eating

● Lack of exercise

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Peripheral arterial disease is caused by atherosclerosis. Peripheral arteries feed the legs, stomach, arms, and head with nutrient-filled blood. PAD can occur in any blood vessel but it is most common in the lower extremities.

The prevalence of PAD increases with age and can affect both men and women. Its severity can range from asymptomatic to symptomatic. Symptoms of PAD include:

● Leg weakness or numbness

● Leg pain while walking

● Pain or cramping in the buttocks, hips, thighs, feet (less common), or calf muscles (most common)

● Hair loss on your legs

● Discomfort and in your legs and feet even while resting

● Cold legs or feet

● Long-lasting sores on your toes, legs, or feet

● Poor nail and hair growth

● Discoloration of your legs

● A weakened dorsalis pedis pulse (on the top of the foot)

● Claudication or impaired walking

Note that blockages may still be present with no pain at all.

The care team for the treatment of PAD usually includes your primary doctor, a cardiologist, and a vascular specialist.

Treatment of Peripheral Arterial Disease

Laser atherectomy is recommended for patients who are unable to undergo angioplasty or stenting. It is also recommended for patients with severe narrowing of the peripheral arteries. Some physicians suggest laser atherectomy for diabetic patients.

What Is Laser Atherectomy?

Atherectomy is a minimally invasive, endovascular surgical procedure. It is used in the removal of plaque from inside the arterial vessels.

In peripheral laser atherectomy, a catheter is inserted into the artery and guided to the damaged areas. Laser energy is pulsed, vaporizing the plaque and breaking it down to carbon dioxide and water.

The procedure is done under local anesthesia and takes one to three hours. The patient must lie flat for three to six hours after surgery. Normal activities may begin again 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. Your doctor will provide specific directions for your recovery.

Are You a Candidate for Laser Atherectomy?

Each case differs. An individual evaluation will determine the best course for your situation.

Learn more about Peripheral Arterial Disease and Laser Atherectomy

At South Valley Vascular, our passion is saving lives. With our amazing kidney specialist helping every step of the way, we see many success stories. Give us a call today at one of our five locations listed below to learn about our services.


● Visalia (559) 625-4118

● Hanford (559) 825-6204

● Porterville (559) 788-1022

● Tulare (559) 625-4118

● Fresno (559) 746-9605