Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of heart disease. The condition occurs when plaque, made up of cholesterol and fatty deposits, builds up inside artery walls. This hardening, or clogging, of the arteries (called atherosclerosis) restricts blood flow to the heart.
People with coronary artery disease may have chest pain, known as angina. A complete blockage can cause a heart attack or stroke.
The Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute is a national leader in using advanced diagnostic technology and minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat heart disease.
Diagnosing coronary artery disease
Our physicians use the latest imaging methods to determine the cause, severity, and prognosis of your heart condition. You may undergo one or more of these tests:
- Cardiac catheterization: Your physician threads a long, thin tube (catheter) to the heart to locate blockages.
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This cardiac imaging scan uses radio waves and magnets to create detailed images of the heart in motion. Learn more about cardiovascular imaging.
- Computed tomography (CT) scans: A series of X-rays taken from different angles produces detailed images of the aorta.
- Computed tomography angiogram (CTA): A CT scan monitors contrast dye, injected into a vein in the arm or leg, as it flows through the bloodstream.
- Echocardiogram (echo): This ultrasound test uses high-frequency sound waves to produce real-time images of the heart and its pumping action.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This noninvasive test measures your heart’s electrical activity.
- Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS): This test uses a small ultrasound wand attached to a catheter to capture images from inside the blood vessels.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: This heart scan uses an injectable radioactive substance called a tracer to display blood flow to your heart and check for blockages.
- Stress tests: A stress test measures changes in your heart during exertion and rest. A nuclear stress test, or single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), uses injectable radioactive tracers to show blood flow to the heart during exertion and rest.
Treating heart disease and angina
The AHN Cardiovascular Institute offers a wide range of treatments for coronary artery disease. We’re experts at using highly complex procedures for people with difficult-to-treat heart problems. Treatments include:
- Medication management: Medicines to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as blood thinners, can improve blood flow and relieve chest pain.
- Interventional procedures: Your physician may recommend a catheter-based procedure, such as coronary angioplasty and stenting or a complex coronary intervention.
- Surgical procedures: Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, or heart bypass surgery, diverts blood flow around a narrowed or blocked artery.