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Treatment Options

The goal in treating plaque is to slow (or possibly reverse) its progression and prevent serious consequences such as heart attack or stroke. Controlling risk factors can help limit the amount of plaque and prevent life-threatening disease. Good preventive treatments are available.


Adopting a healthier lifestyle can help you manage and reduce your risk of complications related to plaque. Examples include: eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking. Moderate exercise is recommended; however discuss this with your doctor first.


Your doctor may prescribe medications to help you reduce cholesterol (e.g., statins); control blood sugar (e.g., anti-diabetic medications); or prevent clots (e.g., aspirin).

Procedures, Devices & Surgery

If you have large amounts of plaque build-up, procedures or surgery may be necessary to remove blockages and improve blood flow in your arteries. Examples of these therapies include:

  • Balloon angioplasty is used to open blocked coronary vessels. During this minimally invasive procedure, a catheter (a long, thin flexible tube) is guided into the blocked artery and a tiny balloon is inflated to clear the way so that blood flow is restored. In some cases, a small mesh tube (stent) is inserted to keep the artery open.
  • Atherectomy is a blade or laser that is used in combination with a catheter to clear out plaque build-up in a blood vessel.
  • Bypass surgery is a common approach that surgeons use to create new routes through which blood can flow around blocked or narrowed arteries. These “bypasses” are created using healthy vessels taken from the chest, arms or legs.
  • Endarterectomy is a surgical procedure through which plaque build-up is removed from artery walls. This is most often done in clogged neck arteries (called a carotid endarterectomy).