An improved expandable removal element (16) for an atherectomy device wherein the expandable removal element (16) is movable between an expanded position and a contracted position. In one embodiment of the present invention, a single drive shaft (92) is operatively connected to the distal end of the expandable material removal element (16) for rotating the removal element (16). A catheter (178) may surround a portion of the drive shaft (92). The catheter (178) is shiftable with respect to the drive shaft (92) 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 (312) and the outer drive (314) are shiftable with respect to one another for moving the removal element (252) between the expanded position and the contracted position. The present invention also describes several embodiments for an improved removal element (252). 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 (330). These single multi-ended strands are then braided together and an abrasive is disposed thereon to form the removal element (252). In another embodiment or the present invention is to provide a braid pattern wherein each single primary braid wire within the braid pattern is individually radially wrapped with a second "wrapping" wire (342). The "wrapping" wire (342), which may be coated with an abrasive (344), primarily performs the removal function. Finally, a number of novel methods for removing vascular occlusion material are provided.