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Coronary Artery Disease Treatment

If you have coronary artery disease, you have many options for treating this common condition. Choose the experts at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center for the most advanced expertise and up-to-date treatments. 

Our multidisciplinary team has decades of experience diagnosing and treating even the most complex cases. We provide comprehensive care tailored to your every health need.

What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease in the U.S. — and it’s the number one cause of death. CAD results from blockages in coronary arteries, which deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.

Your heart pumps blood to provide your body with oxygen and other nutrients. The heart also needs blood and oxygen, supplied through coronary (heart) arteries, to keep heart muscle working properly. 

When cholesterol and other fatty substances build up inside coronary arteries, the arteries become narrow and stiff. The buildup (plaque) can happen in any artery, and the condition is called atherosclerosis. CAD is atherosclerosis in one or more coronary arteries.

CAD can lead to other heart conditions, including heart failure, arrhythmia and heart attack. Learn to recognize heart attack symptoms so you can get emergency care right away.

Coronary Artery Disease Treatments

Treatment goals focus on relieving symptoms, preventing CAD from worsening and reducing the risk of heart attack and other complications. As your care team develops your treatment plan, we work closely with you to understand your needs and preferences. 

We consider your symptoms, risk factors and other conditions affecting your health when recommending treatment options. Depending on your specific situation, you may need one or more treatments, including:

Heart-healthy lifestyle changes

Healthy habits might be all you need to manage CAD in its early stages. The same lifestyle changes for preventing CAD can also help treat it. Learn more about our recommendations and services for heart disease prevention.

Medications for coronary artery disease

We often prescribe medications along with lifestyle changes for people who have mild symptoms. The medications we prescribe for you depend on your specific health needs, and you may need more than one type. 

Medications for coronary artery disease help relieve symptoms and improve your heart function by:

  • controlling your heart rate
  • lowering your blood pressure
  • preventing blood clots
  • reducing cholesterol to reduce or prevent plaque buildup
  • relieving chest pain

Minimally invasive procedures for coronary artery disease

If your symptoms have worsened or you have narrowed or blocked areas, a minimally invasive procedure can help. Minimally invasive procedures for CAD are called cardiac catheterization or percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI).

PCIs use tiny incisions and catheters (long, thin, flexible tubes with instruments) to access a coronary artery through the groin or arm. We use imaging to guide the catheter to the narrowed or blocked areas for treatment. 

These procedures allow for a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complications. You may be able to go home the same day, depending on your procedure and condition.

Our interventional cardiologists have helped develop the most advanced angioplasty and stent implantation techniques used globally. We have developed new strategies for the most complex cases, including people who have had previous bypass surgery or who cannot undergo surgery. Read more about interventional procedures

Open-heart surgery for coronary artery disease

For more advanced CAD that involves multiple heart arteries or more critical areas, you may need open-heart surgery. Our cardiac surgeons have advanced fellowship training and years of experience in sophisticated surgical techniques to treat CAD. 

We use the latest approaches to make heart surgery less invasive, which helps reduce your recovery time and risk of complications. Our heart surgeons are skilled in:

  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery: The surgeon uses a section of healthy blood vessel from elsewhere in your body. Attaching one end above and the other below the artery blockage, the surgeon bypasses (goes around) the blocked part of the artery. During CABG, we may use a heart-lung machine, also called a cardiopulmonary bypass machine,   to circulate blood through the body while your heart is stopped. In some cases, we do this procedure off pump.
  • Off-pump CABG surgery: This technique differs from traditional CABG surgery because the heart doesn’t need to be stopped. We use special equipment to stabilize the area of the heart being operated on while the heart is still beating.
  • Transmyocardial laser revascularization (TMLR): This procedure improves blood flow to the heart by creating tiny channels in the heart muscle. TMLR doesn’t require the use of a heart-lung machine. TMLR can help people who cannot have bypass surgery and need more advanced treatment for angina.

Learn more about heart surgery options for CAD.

Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

Getting the best possible treatment for CAD starts with an accurate diagnosis. Our cardiovascular team includes cardiac imaging technologists, such as highly experienced sonographers for echocardiograms. Learn more about our diagnostics and testing process.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University cardiovascular specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, please call 888-982-8794.