Coronary Artery Disease: Even if you’re least likely to develop a heart disease of any kind, you probably know a friend or relative who’s been diagnosed with coronary artery disease and asked to undergo a coronary angiography. Either way with the kind of lifestyles most urban people lead today, it is helpful to understand the disease and be aware of the risk factors and procedures involved in treatment.
What is Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) occurs when the Coronary Arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle (the coronary arteries) narrowed and hardened. The arteries harden and narrow due to buildup of cholesterol rich material called plaque on their inner walls. As the plaque increases in size, the lumen of the coronary arteries get narrower and there is reduced blood flow through them. Eventually blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced and since blood carries the much-needed oxygen, this leads to heart muscle dysfunction.
What is Coronary Angiography?
Coronary angiography is an X-ray examination of the blood vessels of the heart. A very small tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel through the groin or wrist. The tip of the tube is positioned at the beginning of the arteries supplying the heart. A special fluid (called a contrast medium or dye) is injected. This fluid is visible by X-ray, and the pictures that are obtained are called angiograms. They visualize the luminal narrowing in the coronary artery.
What will the test feel like?
The patient will remain conscious throughout the procedure and will be able to follow instructions. The test usually takes 15 to 20 minutes. Local anaesthesia will be administered to the patient, so it IS a painless procedure except for one 10 anesthetic injection.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease are:
chest pain or chest discomfort, pain in one or both arms or in the left shoulder, neck, jaw or back
Shortness of breath, etc.
Excessive Tiredness/Unexplained Tiredness
The severity of symptoms vary widely. Symptoms may become more severe as coronary arteries become narrower due to the buildup of plaque. In some people the first sign of CAD is heart attack or sudden death. A heart attack happens when plaque in a coronary artery breaks apart, causing a blood clot to form and block or occlude the artery reducing or stopping oxygen supply to the heart muscle.
Who is at risk?
Risk factors include:
A family history of premature heart disease
High blood cholesterol
High blood pressure
Lack of physical activity, etc.
the risk for coronary artery disease also rises with age. In men the risk increases after the age of 45 and in women after 55.
How is Coronary Artery Disease diagnosed?
There is no single test to diagnose CAD. If you experience any symptoms or have a considerable number of risk factors, your doctor may recommend stress test (Exercise Electro Cardiogram). The stress test measures changes in the electrical activity of the heart as you perform controlled exercise. If the results of the stress test indicate a need for further testing your doctor may insist on a Coronary Angiography.
The Coronary Angiography is the most useful test for diagnosing CAD because it allows the doctor to see the severity and exact location where the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. Based on the results of the angiography, the doctor may advise medical therapy. Angioplasty or Coronary Bypass Graft Surgery. In some cases, the doctor performs an angioplasty procedure immediately following the angiography in order improve blood flow to the heart
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.