The content on this website is intended to provide you with a better understanding
of coronary artery disease, beating heart bypass surgery and endoscopic vessel harvesting.
The procedures described in this website and related links may not be appropriate
for all patients. The information on this website and maintain an open dialogue with
you and your an informed discussion with a physician, and is not an endorsement or
recommendation of any particular physician.
What is Coronary Artery Disease?
In coronary artery disease, the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked by a
gradual buildup of fat (cholesterol) within the artery wall, which reduces the blood
flow to the heart muscle. This buildup is called "atherosclerotic plaque" or simply
"plaque," and may start slowly progressing in childhood.
If the plaque narrows the channel of the artery, it may make it difficult for adequate
quantities of blood to flow to the heart. Basically, there are three main coronary
arteries in your heart. These arteries are located in the front of the heart (LAD),
in the back of the heart (CIRC), and on the right side of the heart (RCA). One, two,
or all three of these coronary arteries or their branches may be involved in the
process of narrowing or blockage. The blockage may be partial or complete (see figures
below ). Your doctor will mark the sites of your blockage on the enclosed illustration.
Then, after surgery, he will mark the course of your bypass graphs. When a coronary
artery becomes partially or completely blocked, the part of the heart muscle supplied
by the blood vessel does not get its required blood supply.
The first symptom generally is chest pain or chest discomfort which may be described
as a pressure or heaviness beneath the breastbone (sternum) with associated neck,
jaw or arm discomfort. The pattern varies from patient to patient and may have associated
symptoms of sweating, shortness of breath, or nausea. This group of symptoms is referred
to as angina. Angina is commonly brought on by physical work, mental work or stress,
but may come on at rest or even while sleeping at night. Angina may be improved with
the use of NTG (nitroglycerine), which helps the heart cope with these partial blockages.
If the blood supply to the blockage is not corrected rapidly, you may develop a "heart
attack" (myocardial infarction). The area of the, heart muscle not receiving the
blood supply will become scar tissue and will lose its ability to pump.
If your cardiologist or primary care physician has found coronary artery blockages
during your catheterization, they have recommended coronary artery bypass surgery
to protect your heart muscle from these threatening blockages. Ask your heart surgeon
to mark the course of the proposed bypass grafts.