What is coronary artery disease?
Coronary artery disease is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary (heart) arteries, as shown in the top illustration. After an interventional procedure, the coronary artery is opened, increasing blood flow to the heart.
Coronary artery disease is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty deposits and inflammatory cells (called plaque) on the inner walls of the arteries that restricts blood flow to the heart. Without adequate blood flow, the heart becomes starved of oxygen and vital nutrients it needs to work properly. The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina, or chest pain.
When one or more of the coronary arteries suddenly becomes completely blocked, a heart attack (injury to the heart muscle) may occur. If the blockage occurs more slowly, the heart muscle may develop small collateral blood vessels (or detours) for other coronary arteries to reroute the blood flow, and angina occurs.
A complete blockage in a coronary artery is called a total coronary occlusion, or if it more than three months old, a chronic total occlusion.