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Coronary Artery Complications

Learn how coronary artery complications can affect your heart health and what steps you can take to reduce your risk.
2023-04-05

Introduction

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a major cause of death and disability due to its complications, which can be both acute and chronic. Acute complications include myocardial infarction (heart attack) and sudden cardiac death, while chronic complications include angina, heart failure, arrhythmias, and stroke. This article will review the pathophysiology of coronary artery complications.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is a condition in which the major blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood become narrowed or blocked due to the buildup of fatty deposits, known as plaque, on the inner walls of the arteries. This narrowing of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis, and it can lead to a decrease in the amount of oxygen-rich blood that the heart is able to receive. This can cause chest pain, known as angina, or a heart attack if the plaque ruptures and a blood clot forms in the artery.

Acute Coronary Artery Complications

The most common acute complication of CAD is a myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. This occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the narrowed coronary arteries and completely blocks its flow. This causes the heart muscle to become deprived of oxygen and the tissue begins to die. The symptoms of a heart attack can include chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and lightheadedness.

Another potential acute complication of CAD is sudden cardiac death. This occurs when the heart stops beating due to a heart rhythm abnormality, such as ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. This is usually caused by an underlying coronary artery disease. Symptoms of sudden cardiac death include loss of consciousness, no pulse, and no breathing.

Chronic Coronary Artery Complications

Chronic coronary artery complications can include angina, heart failure, arrhythmias, and stroke.

Angina is chest pain or discomfort caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. This occurs when the coronary arteries are narrowed by plaque, making it difficult for the heart to get enough oxygen-rich blood. The most common symptom of angina is a squeezing or pressure sensation in the chest.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood around the body to meet its needs. This can be caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, leading to reduced blood flow to the heart. Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling in the ankles and feet.

Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms. These can occur as a result of coronary artery disease, as the abnormal electrical impulses that control the heart’s rhythm can be disrupted by plaque in the arteries. Symptoms of arrhythmias include palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Finally, stroke is a complication of coronary artery disease. This occurs when a blood clot forms in a narrowed artery and blocks the flow of blood to the brain. This can cause permanent damage to the brain, leading to paralysis, speech problems, and difficulty with thinking and memory.

Conclusion

Coronary artery disease is a major cause of death and disability due to its complications, which can be both acute and chronic. Acute complications include myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death, while chronic complications include angina, heart failure, arrhythmias, and stroke. This article has reviewed the pathophysiology of coronary artery complications.

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