How is coronary artery disease treated?

CAD is managed with a combination of lifestyle changes, exercise, diet, and medical treatment. The treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the severity of your disease.

There are medications that are given to relieve chest discomfort due to blockages: statins treat the blockage as well as nitrates 'dilating' the blockage, but do not alleviate or remove the blockage

In addition to lifestyle changes and medications, there are also medical procedures that may be performed.

  • Angioplasty is a minimallly invasivel procedure that is performed in the hospital. The heart doctor threads a small tube (called a catheter) through the wrist or groin which then passes through an artery to the site of the blockage. A small balloon located on the tip of the catheter is then slowly inflated to open the blockage. This procedure can be performed with a balloon catheter alone, or it can also involve  placement of a coronary stent. This procedure is also known as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). Angioplasty performed alone is also known as PTCA.
  • Many patients who have an angioplasty may also have a stent implanted. Stents look similar to the spring in a ball point pen. After the angioplasty procedure opens the artery, a stent is placed and expanded to fit the size of the artery. The stent remains in the artery to help keep blood flowing freely. Over time, the artery wall heals around the stent. During the time of healing it is necessary for the patient to take medications to help prevent blood from clotting within the stent.
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery (CABG) requires open heart surgery. During surgery, arteries or veins are taken from another part of the body and used to reroute blood around blocked heart arteries.

There are risks associated with any of these invasive procedures. It is important that you review these risks with your heart doctor as they may include infection, allergic reactions, vessel damage, blood clots and death.

If you have received a stent, it is important to follow your doctor's instructions to reduce your risk of complications.