Doctor listening to patient's heartbeat
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by plaque buildup in the wall of the arteries that supply blood to the heart (called coronary arteries). It may be chronic, narrowing of the coronary artery over time and limiting the blood supply to part of the muscle. Or it can be acute, resulting from a sudden rupture of plaque and formation of a blood clot. 

Living a healthy lifestyle that incorporates good nutrition, weight management and getting plenty of physical activity can help reduce your risk of developing coronary artery disease. 

The traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease include: 
  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking 
  • For women—being post-menopausal 
  • For men—being older than 45 
  • Obesity may also be a risk factor

Typical warning signs of coronary artery disease are:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t delay-call 911.

 

DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENTS & TECHNOLOGIES

Cardiac Catheterization

A cardiac catheterization (cardiac cath) is a procedure that measures how well your heart is working, whether you have blocked arteries, or diseased valves or muscle. During a cardiac cath procedure, a thin tube called a catheter is inserted into an artery in your arm or leg and fed into the heart. Instruments can go through this tube to measure pressure, take blood or tissue samples, or inject dye for an x-ray of the heart (angiogram). Catheterization also enables surgical procedures in the heart, such as stent or balloon placement or valve replacement. 

Coronary Intravascular Ultrasound & Flow Measurement

An intravascular ultrasound is a way for cardiologists to “see” inside an artery. This imaging can help guide a procedure or give a clearer picture of damage to the artery from disease or a cardiac trauma (such as a heart attack). An intravascular ultrasound may be used to measure the artery, detect blood clots or check that a stent has been placed properly.

Most people with CAD can be helped by one or a combination of these three types of treatments:
MEDICATION MANAGEMENT

Prescription drugs can counter the effects of heart disease, helping to keep risk factors including hypertension and cholesterol under control.

MINIMALLY INVASIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS

  • CORONARY STENT: A coronary stent is also called a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). During this minimally-invasive procedure, a catheter is sent to the site of the blockage to open up the artery to restore blood flow.
  • SHOCKWAVE IVL: Complex calcium can be challenging when trying to treat CAD. The presence of calcium increases the complexity of CAD and the effectiveness of treatment. The technology of lithotripsy—using shockwaves or lasers to break up hardened masses in the body—has been used effectively for more than 30 years to treat kidney and gall stones. This same approach can be used to treat complex calcium in the coronary arteries. CMC is proud to be named one of three sites in the Northeast—and the only one north of Boston—to provide a new technology called the Shockwave Coronary IVL System. Shockwave IVL is an energy-based catheter which creates sonic pressure waves that travel through soft tissue, safely cracking calcium in the diseased artery. This technology represents a major advance in the treatment of CAD. Learn more

SURGICAL TREATMENT: HEART SURGERY

A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) can reroute blood flow around a blocked artery. Bypass surgery improves blood flow around severely blocked arteries and alleviates the symptoms of coronary artery/heart disease. During the surgery, a portion of artery or vein is taken from another part of your body. This is called grafting. One end of the graft is attached to the aorta (the major blood veseel in the body) and the other end is sewn to the coronary artery, beyond the blockage. The result is a new pathway—a bypass—for blood to flow to the heart. One or more grafts may be used depending on the number and extent of blockage.  In many situations, bypass surgery can safely and effectively be performed without using the heart-lung machine. This is referred to as beating heart or off-pump coronary artery bypass (OPCAB) surgery. Surgeons at Catholic Medical Center perform both on-pump and off-pump bypass surgery based on the needs of the patient and the severity of the coronary artery disease.
 

coronary artery disease game changer

Shockwave

It’s called a breakthrough technology for treating advanced coronary artery disease and CMC was one of the first in the country to use it. Learn more about our physicians who are trained in this new technology and how the Shockwave IVL System uses sonic pressure to break up calcified plaque inside the arteries.

Cardiothoracic Surgeons & Interventional Cardiologists

Meet our Team

You have access to the most advanced cardiovascular and thoracic care in northern New England at CMC’s New England Heart & Vascular Institute.