A rotablator, which was first introduced in 1993, is a miniature drill capped with an abrasive, diamond-studded burr. The rotablator is used in a type of catheter-based procedure called rotational atherectomy.

Rotational atherectomy is a minimally invasive treatment that is sometimes used to pulverize hardened plaque within a coronary artery. During rotational atherectomy, the rotablator is guided to the blockage via a catheter – a thin, flexible, hollow plastic tube small enough to be threaded through a blood vessel.

During this procedure a very small device called a rotablator is used. It is the shape of a tiny football and comes in many sizes to suit various arteries. It is threaded over a guidewire through the catheter that is used to inject dye at the blockage site.

The tip of the rotablator is coated with very tiny pieces of diamond crystals. Air pressure (turbine) is used to power and rotate the tip at very high speeds against the plaque. When the tip is rotated, it sounds much like the tools a dentist might use. Short bursts of power will be used to rotate the tip up to 190,000 rpm. This will grind or break the plaque down into very small particles. These particles are the size of sand dust which is smaller than a red blood cell. The dust is flushed downstream in the blood with IV fluids to be cleaned up and removed by the body’s natural defences.