An improved expandable removal element for an atherectomy device wherein the expandable removal element is movable between an expanded position and a contracted position. In one embodiment of the present invention, a drive shaft is operatively connected to the distal end of the expandable removal element for rotating the removal element. A catheter surrounds a portion of the drive shaft. The catheter is shiftable with respect to the drive shaft for moving the material removal element between the expanded position and the contracted position. In another embodiment of the present invention, dual coaxial drive shafts are employed. The inner drive shaft and the outer drive are shiftable with respect to one another for moving the removal element between the expanded position and the contracted position. The present invention also describes several embodiments of a removal element for increasing the durability and effectiveness of the removal element. One embodiment of the removal element of the present invention comprised a plurality of braided wires having an abrasive disposed thereon. Another embodiment of a removal element is to provide a plurality of individual wires within each "braid" to increase the abrasive surface area of the removal element. In this " multi-ended" configuration, a plurality of wires are bundled together to form a single multi-ended strand. These single multi-ended strands are then braided together and an abrasive is disposed thereon to form the removal element. Finally, a number of novel methods for removing vascular occlusion material are provided.