Over the years coronary artery disease (CAD), or simply put, heart diseases have increased or rather quadrupled in its existence. More and more people are being affected by this disease and it has, unfortunately, become the single largest killer of man in modern times. But, there is always a silver lining.
Over the last few years, there has been a revolution in the treatment of CAD. Scientists and doctors have discovered a plethora of ways in which CAD can be controlled – thus allowing patients to live an almost-normal, long and healthy life. Patients can now work with their doctors and create a treatment plan, that best suits their lifestyle and then just by sticking to it, patients can ensure the longevity of their heart.
The treatments for CAD can be divided into the following types:
- Pharmacological treatments
- Angioplasty and stenting
- Surgery – CABG (Coronary artery bypass grafting)
Pharmaceutical Treatments/ Drugs:
Several types of medications can be used to treat CAD, depending on the severity of the disease and the health condition of the patient. Some of these medicinal treatments are:
- Cholesterol- controlling medications – Statins and other medicines effectively control cholesterol and can slow down the plaque build-up process in our heart.
- Beta-blockers – These drugs slow the heart rate and reduce the heart’s demand for oxygen, and are thus recommended for patients who’ve already had a heart attack.
- Aspirin – Aspirin taken daily can ward of blood clots. This in turn helps prevent obstructions of the coronary arteries. Aspirins in low-dosages are most effective for the prevention of a second heart attack.
- Nitroglycerin – Nitroglycerin tablets, sprays or patches cause our arteries and veins to relax. For patients who have CAD or are experiencing angina, dissolving a tablet in the mouth or using the spray or patch can temporarily dilate the coronary arteries and reduce the heart’s demand for blood.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) – These medications treat high-blood pressure and help prevent progression of CAD.
For some patients, their heart disease may be so severe or they may have such widespread plaque in more than one artery that mere medications will not help them. They will require more aggressive treatments or procedures to restore blood supply to their heart. This is broadly called “Revascularization”
Angioplasty and Stenting
It is also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). These are minimally invasive techniques done by Cardiologists.
Coronary balloon angioplasty – This method uses a tiny balloon to forcibly open a plaque and widen the artery,enabling normal or near-normal blood flow to the heart.
Stenting – After an angioplasty, a device called a stent is used to keep the arteries open. A stent is a tiny, expandable, mesh-like tube made of alloys. This stent when inserted into the coronary artery expands and pushes back the plaque, keeping the artery wide open.
However not all blocks can be addressed by this technique
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting, or “CABG“
It is the most common heart surgery, and is performed by a Cardiac surgeon. As the name implies, in this operation the existing blocks are bypassed and an alternate route is created, to restore normal blood supply to the heart. Patients own normal blood vessels, harvested from other parts of the body are used to create the bypasses.
All forms of coronary artery disease can be addressed with this operation, even when Coronary artery disease is unsuitable for stenting. CABG has now become a routine surgery, with very good success rates. Learn more about CABG here.
CABG surgery is of two kinds – Beating Heart Surgery and Arrested Heart Surgery.
In the Beating Heart Surgery, the surgery is performed while the heart is still beating. This type of surgery does not take time and the patient’s recovery time is shorter.
In the Arrested Heart Surgery, a Heart-Lung machine takes over the function of the heart and lung, both of which are then stopped. The bypasses are then created on a still heart. Once the operation is over, the heart and lung are re-started.
Of all the treatments available for treating heart diseases, CABG is one of the best. It promises better results and faster recovery and most importantly – even though it is a surgery, it is extremely safe and a more accepted procedure.
However, information provided here should not be taken as an alternative to consultation with healthcare professionals. A doctor should always be consulted about treatment options.