Sometimes heart disease patients have blockages in their arteries that are calcified and hard. These blockages may not respond to angioplasty, a procedure during which a tiny balloon at the end of a thin tube called a catheter is inserted into the artery and opened and closed to push aside the blockage. If the arterial plaque (a mixture of cholesterol, calcium and other substances) that is causing the blockage is too hard for the angioplasty balloon, the physician treating the blockage may recommend rotablation.
A rotablator is a small drill with a burr on the end that is coated in diamond dust. The rotablator is small enough to fit in an artery and strong enough to drill through the calcified plaque - but is designed not to damage the artery walls. As the rotablator breaks up the blockage, it grinds the plaque into tiny pieces that can be safely carried away by your bloodstream. Eventually your body processes and eliminates the pieces of plaque. After rotablation, blood can flow through the artery again and supply vital oxygen and nutrients to the heart.