What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease (coronary atherosclerosis) occurs when the arteries are injured.

The normal artery has three layers in the wall, a thin inner lining layer (endothelium), a think muscular middle layer (media), and a thin outer layer (adventitia).

As coronary artery disease develops, plaque is deposited into the thin inner lining endothelial layer which becomes thicker.

Initially, the vessel expands to accommodate the volume of plaque without compromising the central passageway (lumen), however, when this process is overcome, the lumen is restricted and the blood flow compromised.

When the blood supply to the heart muscle is compromised it can cause chest pain (angina) or shortness of breath.  This is often first noticeable at times of increased demand on the heart muscle such as with exertion or stress.  It is even of more concern when symptoms occur at rest.

Related Conditions and Procedures

What is Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)?

OCT images the coronary arteries using high-definition light images

What Is Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS)?

IVUS images the coronary arteries using high-definition ultrasound images

What Is Fractional Flow Reserve (FFR)?

Fractional Flow Reserve measures the pressure beyond a coronary blockage to assess the severity.

What Is a CT Coronary Angiogram (CTCA)?

Images the coronary arteries with CT

What Is a Coronary Angiogram?

Takes x-ray images of the coronary arteries.

What Is a Cardiac Cath?

Images the coronary arteries by directly injecting x-ray dye