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Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle, called the coronary arteries, become hardened and narrowed by a build-up of plaque. Eventually, blood flow to the heart muscle is cut off and, because blood carries much-needed oxygen, the heart muscle is not able to receive the amount of oxygen it needs.This can lead to dangerous complications such as angina (chest pain) and heart attack. Over time, coronary artery disease can also lead to arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats) and heart failure.

CAD is the most common type of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the United States in both men and women.

Diagnosis

There is no single test to diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD). Doctors develop a diagnosis by  assessing medical history, family medical history, risk factors, physical examination and several tests that may include EKG (echocardiogram), stress echocardiogram, nuclear heart scanning, coronary catheterization and/or coronary angiography. Learn more about testing for heart disease here.

Treatment

Lifestyle changes to treat coronary artery disease (CAD) may include modifications in diet and exercise as well as efforts to reduce stress and/or weight in some cases. Smoking cessation is often employed as well.

In cases in which symptoms do not improve through lifestyle changes and medication, special interventional procedures or surgery may be considered: 

  • Percutaneous Coronary Procedures: These nonsurgical, interventional procedures are also known as angioplasty and stenting. Angioplasty opens blocked or narrowed coronary arteries. It can improve blood flow to the heart, relieve chest pain, and possibly prevent a heart attack. Sometimes a device called a stent is placed in the artery to keep the artery propped open after the procedure.
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: In this procedure arteries or veins from other areas in the body are used to bypass your narrowed coronary arteries. Bypass surgery can improve blood flow to the heart, relieve chest pain, and possibly prevent a heart attack.

For the Institute of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, call 866.84.HEART (866.844.3278).


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