What is a coronary angiogram?
A coronary angiogram
can determine whether your heart arteries are narrowed, to what degree, and the
location of the problem. During angiography, a thin flexible tube (catheter) is
threaded through an artery of an arm or leg up into the heart and a dye is then
injected into the catheter. The doctor can then see whether your coronary
arteries are blocked and how your heart is beating on a TV screen. If an artery
appears narrowed or blocked,
angioplasty with stent placement may be done during
the angiogram to open the artery, or at a later time.
What is coronary artery disease?
disease occurs when the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply
oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle, gradually become narrowed or blocked by
plaque deposits. The plaque deposits decrease the
space through which blood can flow. Poor blood flow can "starve" the heart
muscle and lead to chest pain and weakened heart muscle.
attack can result when blood flow is completely blocked, usually by a blood
clot forming over a ruptured plaque.
How will I know if I have coronary artery disease?
Unfortunately, symptoms of coronary artery disease often develop only
after the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. These symptoms include
angina and shortness of breath and can indicate that your heart muscle is not
getting enough oxygen-rich blood.
If you do not have symptoms of
coronary artery disease, your doctor may suspect you have the disease if you
are at high risk for developing it. Risk factors that contribute to coronary
artery disease include smoking,
high blood pressure, and
How will my doctor diagnose coronary artery disease?
Your doctor will ask you about your risk factors and symptoms and perform
a complete physical exam. If coronary artery disease is suspected, you may have
additional tests to determine the diagnosis. The most common initial tests are
an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), chest X-ray, routine blood tests, an
exercise electrocardiogram (also called a "stress test"), or a stress thallium
If these tests indicate you have coronary artery disease or
you have severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend a coronary angiogram to
evaluate the severity of coronary artery disease and the exact location of any
narrowing or blockages.
How is coronary artery disease treated?
doctor will strongly advise that you make lifestyle changes such as quitting
smoking, following a heart-healthy diet, and exercising. With these measures,
you may be able to halt the progression of the disease and improve the quality
and length of your life. However, many people must take medicines for the rest
of their lives, and a smaller portion require further treatment.
If lifestyle changes and medicines do not work well enough, you may need
angioplasty with stent placement or coronary artery
For more information, see the topic
Coronary Artery Disease.