How is coronary artery disease treated?

CAD may be 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, but do not treat the blockage itself.

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

  • Angioplasty is a non-surgical procedure that is performed in the hospital. The heart doctor threads a small tube (known as a catheter) through the groin or arm 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 can involve the placement of a coronary stent. This procedure is also known as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA).
  • Many patients who have an angioplasty also have what is known as "stent placement." 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.
  • 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 angioplasty or stent implant procedure. It is important that you review these risks with your heart doctor as they may include infection, allergic reactions, coronary vessel damage, blood clots and death.

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