Coronary Artery Disease
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Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply your heart with blood (the coronary arteries) narrow over time as a result of cholesterol (plaque) buildup. This process is called atherosclerosis and leads to a restriction of blood flow to your heart, which can ultimately result in a heart attack.
Narrowing of your arteries can also interfere with the oxygen-rich blood and nutrients being delivered to the heart muscle, producing pain or pressure in the chest.
Our Approach to Treating Coronary Artery Disease
Heart specialists at Houston Methodist are world-class doctors who work as a team to prevent, diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, as well as design rehabilitation plans to prevent further cardiac events.
Your care team will work together to ensure you receive the most effective treatment plan for your specific condition. If surgery is needed to restore blood flow, our skilled heart surgeons are expertly trained in both the minimally invasive procedures and open heart surgeries needed to treat advanced coronary artery disease.
About Coronary Artery Disease
What Are the Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease?
Those most at risk for coronary artery disease are men over the age of 45 and post-menopausal women. Common risk factors include the following:
- Age – simply aging causes damage to or narrowing of the arteries
- High LDL – also known as bad cholesterol
- Low HDL – also known as good cholesterol
- High blood pressure – uncontrolled, your blood pressure can cause a hardening or thickening of the arteries
- Family history
- Smoking – nicotine constricts blood vessels and damages the inner lining of the arteries
Living a healthy lifestyle that incorporates good nutrition, weight management and regular exercise can help reduce your risk for coronary artery disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease develops over time, with no symptoms at first. As plaque continues to build up in your arteries, the following symptoms may appear:
- Chest pain or pressure (angina), which can travel to the arm or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
In particular, symptoms may become more obvious when the heart is pumping hard, such as during physical activity.
How Is Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosed?
Depending on your current symptoms, risk factors and family history, your doctor may use one of the following tests to diagnose coronary artery disease:
Cardiac stress test
How Is Coronary Artery Disease Treated?
Our heart specialists, cardiac surgeons, cardiac rehabilitation specialists, social workers, dietitians and other health care professionals work closely with you before, during and after your treatment.
While some cases of coronary artery disease can be managed via lifestyle changes or medications, more severe blockage of the coronary arteries may require surgery.
Also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), coronary angioplasty uses a special catheter (a long hollow tube) to open blocked coronary arteries and restore blood flow to your heart — without opening your chest. The catheter is inserted into the blocked coronary artery and a small balloon is used to push the plaque against the artery wall — opening the artery.
Coronary angioplasty is performed in a special operating room called a cardiac catheterization laboratory (also known as a cath lab).
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
In the case of a severe blockage, your cardiac surgeon may use coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) to redirect blood flow around the blocked portions of the artery. During this open-heart surgery, a healthy blood vessel, which is usually harvested from your leg, is used to bypass the damaged section and restore blood flow.
Off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery can be used in place of traditional coronary artery bypass surgery in high-risk patients whose health permits. During this procedure, your cardiac surgeon uses a method in which the heart is allowed to keep beating during the surgery, bypassing the blocked artery in a highly controlled operative environment. Benefits for this procedure include a quicker recovery, reduced hospital stay and better preservation of heart function — with less chance for heart rhythm, kidney or liver complications.