Coronary Artery Disease

In Maryland, University of Maryland Physicians Care for the Most Heart Surgery Patients - University of Maryland Medical Center

The coronary arteries supply blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when there is something blocking the coronary arteries. The blockage reduces or stops the flow of blood to the heart, depriving the heart muscle of much-needed oxygen.

CAD (also called ischemic heart disease), the most common form of heart disease, is the leading cause of death among both men and women in America today.


Causes and Risk Factors of Coronary Artery Disease

CAD usually results from the buildup of fatty material and plaque in the arteries.

There are many factors that increase the risk for CAD:

  • Family history of coronary heart disease, stroke or peripheral arterial disease, especially before age 50 in men or before age 60 in women
  • Family history of stroke or peripheral artery disease
  • Male gender
  • Age (65 and older)
  • Menopause in women
  • Tobacco smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Lack of physical activity or exercise
  • Obesity

Preventing Coronary Artery Disease

You can control some of your risk factors and help prevent illness from CAD. Talk to your doctor about:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Lowering blood cholestero
  • Quitting smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting regular exercise

Learn more about heart disease prevention.

Signs and Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

Less than half of all patients have any warning symptoms of CAD. If you feel any unusual symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Some common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain (angina): This is the most common symptom. Chest pain may be typical (a heavy or squeezing feeling) or atypical (a fleeting or sharp pain).
  • Shortness of breath: This occurs because the heart is weak because of the long-term lack of blood and oxygen, or sometimes from a recent or past heart attack.
  • Heart attack: In some cases, the first sign of CAD is a heart attack. This occurs when plaque or a blood clot blocks the blood flow of the coronary artery to the heart.

Diagnosing and Treating Coronary Artery Disease

Our advanced technologies allow us to detect disease, develop individualized treatment plans for you and predict and prevent future disease. Learn more about cardiac diagnosis.

We have a deep understanding of the subtleties and nuance of coronary artery disease, so we can customize a treatment plan that meets your specific needs and situation. Our team is committed to a minimally invasive approach to surgery, with surgeons who have undergone specialized training in this area.

Treatment options include:

  • Medical management: We combine medications with lifestyle modifications such as dietary management, smoking cessation, exercise and cholesterol level management.
  • Catheter-based options: We perform hundreds of procedures annually in our digital cardiac catheterization laboratories. Catheter-based options include:
    • Angioplasty and stenting procedures: Angioplasty procedures improve blood flow to the heart and extremities. A stent is a small mesh-like wire tube in a narrowed artery to keep it open and expanded. 
    • Coronary atherectomy: Removing plaque from arteries.
    • Brache: Radiation therapy for treatment of restenosis (when the narrowing occurs again)
  • Surgical options: Our experienced cardiac surgeons offer traditional and minimally invasive approaches to coronary artery bypass surgery. For our older patients or patients with other health concerns, a minimally invasive approach is beneficial to recovery and overall health. Learn more about coronary revascularization.
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