Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease occurs when cholesterol, a fatlike substance carried in the blood, builds up to form plaque (fatty substances and calcium) in the lining of the coronary arteries. This leads to atherosclerosis. Blood and oxygen may no longer flow easily to the heart muscle because of the resulting narrowing of the arteries, which may cause angina (pain, discomfort, or pressure in the chest). If blood flow is completely blocked by plaque or by a blood clot that forms inside the narrowed coronary artery, a heart attack may occur. CHD is the most common type of heart disease, which affects nearly 13 million Americans and is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.
Cardiovascular specialists in the Division of Cardiac Surgery and the Interventional Cardiology Program offer comprehensive inpatient and outpatient clinical services to adults with coronary heart disease. Part of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Heart & Vascular Center, their services include a broad range of innovative diagnostics and cutting-edge medical, interventional and surgical therapies such as coronary angioplasty and stenting, coronary endarterectomy and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG surgery).
Marc Sabatine, M.D., M.P.H, Cardiologist and Chair of the TIMI Study Group at Brigham and Women's Hospital, answers patients' most commonly searched questions about coronary artery disease.
Risk factors for coronary heart disease include:
Chest pain (angina) is the most common symptom of coronary heart disease. Other symptoms of CHD include:
All of these symptoms are common to many medical conditions and may not indicate coronary heart disease. If you experience any of these symptoms or have concerns, consult your doctor.
Our coronary heart disease specialists provide expert evaluation and diagnosis with the aid of the latest in advanced imaging technologies. In order to diagnose and determine treatment for CHD, a complete medical history, a thorough physical exam, and one or more of the special diagnostic tests below may be provided.
Our cardiovascular specialists develop individualized treatment plans for patients based on:
Treatment for CHD, ranging from lifestyle changes to surgery, may include medications and other treatments.
Watch this video of Gregory Piazza, MD, discussing anticoagulant therapy. Or, read the video transcript about anticoagulant therapy.
The Heart & Vascular Center is located in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, across the street from BWH’s main 75 Francis Street entrance. The Heart & Vascular Center brings together the full range of services in one location, fostering seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.
If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Watkins Clinic for pre-operative information and tests.
The day of surgery, you care will be provided by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with coronary heart disease. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.
During your surgery, family and friends can wait in the Shapiro Family Center. Staff members will provide surgery updates and caregivers who leave the hospital will be contacted by cell phone.
Patients benefit from the teamwork of medical cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, vascular and endovascular surgeons, cardiovascular imaging experts and radiologists, and anesthesiologists, all experts in coronary heart disease. They work alongside nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, dietitians and social workers to achieve outstanding outcomes for our patients. Read more about Our Heart & Vascular Team.
Learn more about coronary heart disease in our health library.
Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center where patients and families can access computers and knowledgeable staff.
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