ATHERECTOMY is akin to using a pipe-clearing plumber's snake on arteries and, as the word's morphologic derivations suggest, involves cutting away and removing arterial plaque. The term was coined about 3 1/2 years ago by John B. Simpson, MD, who was the first to perform the procedure at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, Calif.
The device he uses, the Simpson atherectomy catheter, has a tip shaped like a bullet. One side of the casing is open.
To remove atheromatous plaque, the catheter tip is positioned into the narrowing of the artery and a balloon is inflated to push the open side against the opposite wall. The plaque protrudes into the casing chamber. Then a razoredged cup is advanced through the chamber, shaving off the plaque and pushing the debris into the cone at the end of the tip.
Six Devices in Prospect
At least four different devices are currently in