Diffuse coronary artery atherosclerosis is generally recognized as a deterrent to successful revascularization if it cannot be adequately treated. Mechanical endarterectomy can be useful, but it is not the optimal solution owing to the associated higher incidences of perioperative infarction and mortality. The use of laser energy as an endarterectomy tool appears promising. To investigate the application of excimer laser radiation to intraoperative coronary artery endarterectomy, 15 stenotic lesions in 13 patients were treated with excimer irradiation during coronary artery bypass grafting. Eleven (73%) of the lesions were enlarged by the excimer probe (6 of the successes were in calcified lesions). The 4 arteries not enlarged by the excimer laser all demonstrated calcified lesions. There were 3 perforations and 2 dissections, all but 1 in heavily calcified arteries. The results of this phase 1 safety and efficacy study indicate that excimer irradiation can recanalize most arteries, including total and subtotal occlusions and some calcified lesions. Further evaluation with better delivery systems is needed to determine whether the perforation rate can be reduced.