Coronary artery disease (CAD) develops when the coronary arteries (major blood vessels) that supply the muscles of the heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients become damaged or diseased. Plaques (cholesterol-containing deposits) in a patient’s arteries, as well as inflammation, are usually to blame. When plaque builds up, it narrows the coronary arteries and decreases blood flow to the heart. This decreased flow may cause a patient to experience angina (chest pain), shortness of breath, or other symptoms. A complete blockage may cause a myocardial infarction (heart attack). Since CAD often develops over decades, the patient may only become aware of the condition following a significant blockage or a heart attack.
Narrow coronary arteries are unable to supply enough oxygenated blood to the heart, especially during physical exercise. As plaque continues to accumulate in the coronary arteries, the patient may develop any of the following signs and symptoms:
Coronary artery disease begins with damage to the innermost layer of a coronary artery, sometimes as early as childhood. The damage can be caused by:
Following the damage of the internal wall of the artery, plaque made of cholesterol and other cellular waste products accumulate at the site of injury (atherosclerosis). If the surface of the plaque ruptures, platelets will clot in an attempt to repair the artery. The resulting clot can block the coronary artery, leading to a heart attack.
Risk factors for coronary artery disease include:
Risk factors can often occur in clusters and may build on one another, for example obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. It is possible for CAD to develop without any classic risk factors. Researchers are studying other possible factors, such as:
Minimally Invasive Treatment Options