Artery disease causing angina is addressed initially by controlling existing factors placing the individual at risk. These risk factors include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and obesity. Angina is often controlled by medication, most commonly with nitroglycerin. This drug relieves symptoms of angina by increasing the diameter of the blood vessels carrying blood to the heart muscle. Nitroglycerin is taken whenever discomfort occurs or is expected. It may be taken by mouth by placing the tablet under the tongue or transdermally by placing a medicated patch directly on the skin. In addition, beta blockers or calcium channel blockers may be prescribed to also decrease the demand on the heart by decreasing the rate and workload of the heart.
When conservative treatments are not effective in the reduction of angina pain and the risk of heart attack remains high, physicians may recommend angioplasty or surgery. Coronary artery bypass surgery is an operation in which a blood vessel (often a long vein surgically removed from the leg) is grafted onto the blocked artery to bypass the blocked portion. This newly formed pathway allows blood to flow adequately to the heart muscle.
Another procedure used to improve blood flow to the heart is balloon angioplasty. In this procedure, the physician inserts a catheter with a tiny balloon at the end into a forearm or groin artery. The catheter is then threaded up into the coronary arteries and the balloon is inflated to open the vessel in narrowed sections. Other techniques using laser and mechanical devices are being developed and applied, also by means of catheters.
Jeffrey P. Larson RPT, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,