The term stenosis describes any narrowing of a tubular structure in the body. Coronary artery stenosis occurs when the arteries that feed blood to the heart become blocked or clogged. This reduces the amount of blood flow to the heart's muscles and can result in oxygen starvation. Patients with this condition may experience pain, particularly under stress or strain, and are at an increased risk for heart attack. Coronary artery stenosis occurs most commonly in middle-aged and older people, but it can happen at any age.
The most common causes of coronary artery stenosis arise from poor eating and exercise habits, though other factors may contribute to this condition. Calcium, fat and cholesterol are common culprits for deposits in the heart. Coronary artery stenosis can also occur when scar tissue forms in the wake of surgeries. Arteries can also be blocked by blood clots that form in other parts of the body. As people age, many suffer atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries, which contributes to stenosis.
The heart is a powerful muscle that requires adequate blood flow to serve the entire body. Most people with coronary artery stenosis can make lifestyle changes to increase blood flow to the heart. A diet low in fat and cholesterol can keep deposits from forming in the arteries. Losing weight and exercising can improve overall heart health. Smokers should try to quit, because smoking makes it more difficult for the blood to carry oxygen.
An electrocardiogram is used to diagnose this condition. In extreme cases of coronary artery stenosis, a doctor may recommend surgery to restore heart function. Bypass surgery can route blood around blocked arteries to improve circulation to the heart. Surgeons may clear or reconstruct arteries using an angioplasty procedure.
Special arteries that feed the body and brain can also potentially develop stenosis. When the carotid artery, which feeds blood to the brain, becomes blocked, it can starve the brain of oxygen. A stenosis in this artery is usually detected when a physician hears an abnormal sound emanating from the heart. Carotid artery stenosis is confirmed with an ultrasound. This is usually corrected with endartectomy, a procedure to remove plaque in the carotid artery.
The aorta, which feeds blood to the body, can also be affected by stenosis. When blood flow is limited through the aorta, blood may remain in the lungs, causing shortness of breath. Symptoms of coronary artery stenosis in the aorta include fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and swelling feet. If the blockage in the aorta is not corrected, it can cause the heart to fail. A surgeon may clear the artery of blocking material or replace the aortic valve.