Coronary arteries are blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood to the heart. All muscles in the heart require oxygen to operate correctly. When there is restriction of blood flow to the heart, the coronary arteries become blocked or narrowed. When the heart cannot get oxygen, the heart muscle is damaged and heart attacks occur. A heart attack is also known as a myocardial infraction. The symptoms of a heart attack can vary, but is commonly described as squeezing, burning, tightness, and pressure across the chest. This discomfort may also radiate to the left arm, neck and jaw. Nausea, vomiting and dizziness are other symptoms that heart attacks may include. Once a patient has a heart attack, they may undergo a complex surgical procedure. This procedure consists of three components, a cardiac catheterization, a coronary angioplasty, and a triple vein coronary artery bypass graft (CABG).
In order to determine the proper treatment, first the doctor must determine the extent of damage to the heart. There are a variety of tests that are available, but the most common procedure is a cardiac catheterization. A cardiac catheterization is performed in a special lab under local anesthetic and sterile conditions. A catheter tube is introduced into the heart through an artery of vein located in the groin or arm. Dye is injected through the catheter into the coronary arteries and the heart chambers while an x-ray is taken and recorded on film. This allows the doctor to visualize the areas where the coronary arteries are blocked. He can also view the performance of the heart and its valves. .
Once the extent of the damage to the heart is known, many patients have a coronary angioplasty. During an angioplasty, again the physician uses a catheter and inserts it into the groin or the arm. Instead of having an x-ray on the catheter, a small-deflated balloon is at its tip. Once the catheter reaches the area of blockage, the balloon is inflated and deflated several times, until the blockage is dense and the artery is widened.