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Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosis Could Eventually Lead to a Heart Transplant

Physician shaking patient's hand Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease and ischemic heart disease, is the most common type of heart disease. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, it is the leading cause of death in the United States in both men and women, and it affects more than 13 million Americans. Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become hardened and narrowed due to the progressive buildup of plaque, a thick substance that is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other materials, on the inner walls. As the plaque accumulates, less blood is able to flow through the arteries due to the blockage, preventing the heart from getting the oxygen and vital nutrients it needs to function properly. This can lead to cardiac ischemia, or decreased blood flow to the heart, and even a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease can cause a person to experience a number of symptoms. The most common is angina, or chest pain, which can be described as a heavy, aching, burning, numb, or painful feeling that occurs mostly in the chest but can extend to the left shoulder, arms, neck, back, and even the jaw. It typically occurs in ¡°attacks¡± that last up to 15 minutes. Angina often is experienced during exercise, stress, and other times when the heart is not getting enough blood, but it can sometimes occur without any sort of trigger, while a person is at rest. Other symptoms associated with coronary heart disease include:

  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Weakness or dizziness

Treatment for coronary artery disease can involve making certain lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, adhering to a stricter diet, keeping blood sugar levels under control (particularly for people who are diabetic), and getting regular exercise. Medications may also be prescribed in order to help the heart work more efficiently. Additionally, some common surgical procedures may be performed to treat coronary artery disease, including balloon angioplasty, stent placement, and coronary artery bypass surgery. In some instances when severe heart failure occurs, a heart transplant can become necessary.

Tampa General Hospital¡¯s Heart Transplant Program performs transplants for patients who have been diagnosed with severe heart conditions, including coronary artery disease. Potential transplant recipients must be referred to TGH - ? by their physician or cardiologist via our cardiothoracic transplant referral form. Please call 1-800-505-7769 (press 1 for the heart transplant program and ask for the referral coordinator) or call the coordinator directly at (813) 844-4088 to learn more about our evaluation process and our selection criteria for the specific heart conditions that are treated in our transplant program.