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Coronary Artery Disease (Heart Attack)

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's team of specialists offers medical and surgical options to manage and treat coronary artery disease.

Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Doctors define coronary artery disease, also known as heart disease, as a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to the heart.

A gradual build-up of cholesterol-containing deposits (plaque) on the walls of the arteries (atherosclerosis) can cause coronary artery disease.

Plaque narrows or blocks the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart muscle.

This can result in:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Heart attack
  • Death

At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, we offer standard and minimally invasive procedures to treat:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Other heart diseases and defects

Our cardiothoracic surgeons have helped pioneer the use of minimally invasive techniques in heart surgery, performing the first minimally invasive coronary bypass graft surgery in the tristate (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia) region.

Coronary artery disease is a blockage of the blood vessels that supply the heart muscles, caused by build up of plaque.

Coronary Artery Disease Symptoms and Diagnosis

Coronary artery disease, or heart disease, may develop slowly over many years. It often can go unnoticed until serious symptoms develop.

Serious symptoms of coronary artery disease — including heart attack and instant death — can occur without warning.

More common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain, which may feel like pressure or squeezing pain in your chest
  • Pain or pressure in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosing coronary artery disease

If you go to the emergency room with chest pain, some tests will be done right away to determine if you are experiencing angina or a heart attack.

Your doctor will order tests to:

  • Obtain precise measures of cardiac function
  • Rule out other possible causes
  • Determine the best treatment

Testing for coronary artery disease may include:

  • Blood tests
  • CT scans
  • MRI scans
  • An electrocardiogram
  • Chest x-ray
  • Stress test
  • An echocardiogram
  • Angiography

The UPMC Advanced Cardiac Imaging Program uses state-of-the-art diagnostic tests and procedures not found at other medical centers in the Pittsburgh region. Our highly advanced equipment provides unprecedented views of the heart and coronary arteries.

Testing results

Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to expect your test results and will call you when they're available.

Learn More at UPMC Health Beat

Follow the beat for a healthier life. Check out this post from UPMC Health Beat:

Coronary Artery Disease Treatment

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's integrated team of cardiologists and other specialists work together to provide a full range of treatment options for coronary artery disease, also called heart disease.

Tailored to the cause and severity of your coronary artery disease, your treatment may include:

  • Medicines
    • Relieve chest pain
    • Prevent progression of coronary artery disease
    • Improve blood flow to the heart
  • Lifestyle changes to prevent or slow heart disease:
    • Regular exercise
    • Healthy diet
    • Smoking cessation
  • Catheter-assisted procedures and bypass surgery that can help open blocked arteries

Procedures for treating coronary artery disease

  • Interventional procedures — nonsurgical treatments to open the artery, such as a cardiac catheterization with stenting or balloon angioplasty.
  • Coronary bypass graft surgery — to restore blood flow to the heart muscle using blood vessels from other parts of the body.

UPMC's Cardiac Catheterization Program specialists perform more than 20,000 diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization procedures each year.

And surgeons at the Heart and Vascular Institute performed more than 950 coronary artery bypass graft surgeries at UPMC hospitals last year.

In the News

Heart Stent Dissolves in Body
UPMC became the first hospital in western Pennsylvania to use a recently FDA-approved fully dissolving heart stent.

Coronary Artery Disease Educational Materials

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offers educational information and videos about coronary artery disease and other heart and vascular conditions.

Many people find these resources helpful in answering their questions about their heart disease and preparing them for their procedure or diagnostic test.

The links below will open a new browser window. 

From our Health Library at