Cardiac ischemia occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle (myocardium) is decreased by a partial or complete blockage of a coronary artery. A sudden, severe blockage may lead to a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Cardiac ischemia may also cause a serious abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), which can cause fainting or even sudden death.
Typical signs and symptoms of cardiac ischemia include:
- Chest pain (angina pectoris)
- Neck or jaw pain
- Arm pain
- Clammy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
In some people, especially those with diabetes, cardiac ischemia may cause no signs or symptoms.
A doctor may make a diagnosis of cardiac ischemia based on:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Stress test
- X-rays of coronary arteries (coronary angiogram)
Treatment is directed at improving blood flow to the heart muscle and may include:
- Medication such as aspirin, beta blockers and nitrates. During a heart attack, thrombolytic agents, or "clot-busters," may be used.
- Angioplasty or stent placement (percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI).
- Coronary artery bypass surgery.
Exercise may improve blood flow to the heart muscle after the condition is stabilized.
May. 22, 2008
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