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Angioplasty, Stents and Atherectomy

University of Chicago Medicine interventional cardiologists are leaders in the use of catheter-based techniques to open plaque-filled vessels in patients with coronary artery disease. Our specialists often perform complex procedures on high-risk patients with severe blockages. Physicians here can drastically reduce the risks created by blood clots or tissue dislodged during treatment by using filters to trap clots, devices that snare tissue debris, and powerful new anti-platelet medications. This high level of specialized expertise does make a difference. Research shows that experienced cardiologists who have performed many angioplasties get better results.

Unlike many hospitals, at the University of Chicago Medicine, a cardiologist is immediately available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to perform emergency catheterization procedures to alleviate severe chest pain and restore blood flow after a heart attack.

Transradial Catheterization Offers Advantages

The traditional approach to angiography involves threading the catheter through the femoral artery in the groin. At the University of Chicago Medicine, our experts also offer transradial catheterization, a technique where the catheter is introduced through an artery in the wrist. The transradial approach is not widely available even though it offers many advantages for patients. With transradial catheterization, patients are able to get up and walk immediately after the procedure, unlike traditional femoral catherization that requires the patient to stay in bed for several hours. A key benefit of the transradial approach is a lower risk for bleeding. » Learn more about transradial catheterization

Balloon Angioplasty

Cardiac Center interventional cardiologists have been successfully performing angioplasties for many years. A balloon angioplasty, also called a percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), involves the use of a thin tube (catheter) that is inserted into a blocked or narrowed artery. The catheter has a tiny balloon on its tip that is inflated to push plaque against the artery's walls to widen the path for blood flow.

Stents and Drug-Eluting Stents

Stents are small steel mesh tubes that can be placed inside an artery during an angioplasty procedure. Stents "prop" open arteries to keep blood flowing. More than 70 percent of angioplasties involve the placement of stents.

At the University of Chicago Medicine, interventional cardiologists can offer a special, drug-coated (drug eluting) stent. These breakthrough devices block scar tissue growth inside the stent. Less scar tissue means there's a reduced chance for restenosis, or renarrowing of the artery. Restenosis is a very common problem that often results in the need for repeat angioplasty treatments or coronary artery bypass graft surgery.


Atherectomy is a procedure in which plaque is removed from the inside of an artery. Different methods are used to perform atherectomies. One method, called rotational atherectomy, involves the use of a special burr or drill on the tip of a catheter that rotates to shave the plaque into tiny pieces. Another method is directional atherectomy, a technique in which a small cutting device is pushed against the plaque to cut it away from the artery.