Home / Conditions / Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary arteries along the surface of the heart supply oxygen to the heart muscle. As heart disease develops, the coronary arteries may become narrow due to a build-up of plaque, which is made up of fats, dead cells, and other materials. This raises the risk of heart attack.

When lifestyle changes and medication have not helped to lower the risk of heart attack, Crozer Health specialists offer both time-tested and newer treatments to restore blood flow to the heart muscle for patients with life-threatening heart disease. These include medical therapy, or the use of drugs to treat the effects and symptoms of coronary artery disease; interventional (non-surgical) procedures and surgical procedures.

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease is characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits along the innermost layer of the coronary arteries. The fatty deposits may develop in childhood and continue to thicken and enlarge throughout the life span. This thickening, called atherosclerosis, narrows the arteries and can decrease or block the flow of blood to the heart.

The American Heart Association estimates that more than 16 million Americans suffer from coronary artery disease--the number-one killer of both men and women in the U.S.

Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, tests for coronary artery disease may include the following:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.
  • Cardiac Stress Test: This test is given while you walk on a treadmill to monitor the heart during exercise. Breathing and blood pressure rates are also monitored. Stress tests may be used to detect coronary artery disease or to determine safe levels of exercise after a heart attack or heart surgery. This can also be done while resting using special medicines that can synthetically place stress on the heart.
  • Cardiac Catheterization: With this procedure, a wire is passed into the coronary arteries of the heart and X-rays are taken after a contrast agent is injected into an artery. It's done to locate the narrowing, blockages, and other problems.
  • Nuclear Stress Test:Radioactive material is injected into a vein and then is observed using a camera as it is taken up by the heart muscle. This indicates the healthy and damaged areas of the heart.

Treating Coronary Artery Disease

  • Angioplasty: Angioplasty uses a catheter with a small balloon at its tip. Once the catheter has been guided to the proper place in the heart, the balloon is filled with air. This presses the plaque against the wall of the artery to improve blood flow. In some cases, a catheter may be used to remove a blood clot.
  • Stenting: Using catheterization, arteries are reopened by inflating a tiny balloon at the site of the blockage (“angioplasty”). Sometimes a stent, which is shaped like a tiny tube, is inserted to maintain the passageway. With triple-A, the aneurysm shrinks onto the stent.
  • Rotational Atherectomy: This interventional procedure is occasionally used to open a blocked coronary artery in patients with heavily calcified plaque. Once the catheter has been guided to the narrow section of the artery, a high-speed instrument is used to cut through the plaque.
  • Off-pump Coronary Artery Bypass: In off-pump bypass surgery, the heart-lung machine is not used. Rather than stopping the heart, technological advances and new kinds of operating equipment now enable surgeons to hold stable portions of the heart during surgery. With a particular area stabilized, the surgeon can then bypass the blocked artery.

Schedule an Appointment

To learn more about coronary artery disease or request an appointment, please call 1-866-95-PULSE (1-866-957-8573) or request an appointment online.