Heart disease is a general term that broadly refers to conditions affecting the heart, such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and congenital heart defects. We can attribute many cases of heart disease to a condition called atherosclerosis; this is when plaque builds up in the artery walls and narrows the artery channel, severely impeding blood flow. Luckily, modern technology has provided us with numerous procedures to test for such grave conditions and save lives in the process. Learn more about the common procedures and treatments for heart disease.
Electrocardiograms, also known as EKG, assess heart rate and rhythm using electrode patches placed on the surface of the skin. This is a non-invasive, quick procedure that is prevalent in detecting heart disease. EKGs can also detect an enlarged heart, abnormal heart rhythms, and ischemia, which refers to the inadequate blood supply to the heart.
Echocardiograms employ transducers, which send ultrasonic waves (an ultrasound) that bounce of the heart muscle and displays its movement. This procedure can provide a clear picture of the heart valves and chambers to see exactly how the blood pumps throughout the heart. Echocardiograms identify a range of disorders, including coronary artery disease, aneurysms, heart enlargement, and congenital heart disease.
Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (MPI)
Myocardial Perfusion Imaging, also known as MPI, is a non-invasive imaging test that shows how the blood flows through the heart muscle. The MPI test is performed during exercise which is typically done via treadmill or exercise bicycle. However, if exercise is not possible, medicine is delivered to the patient to stimulate blood flow to the heart.
The MPI test is commonly used with patients who report chest discomfort to determine whether the discomfort stems from poor blood flow or not. A possible cause of obstructed blood flow is angina, which is the narrowing of heart arteries. MPI cardiology tests are also instrumental in detecting possible heart damage or scarring from past heart attacks. This test is an instrumental diagnostic tool and helps dictate a patient’s wellness or need for further care.
The use of these diagnostic tools varies on a case by case basis, according to the specific symptoms the patient experiences.
Heart Disease Treatments
Heart disease is a significant contributor to heart attacks. In fact, every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Doctors continue to push the boundaries of medicine in order to change this statistic. Thanks to their determination, there are currently a few treatments available for heart disease patients.
For severe blockages in coronary arteries, an angioplasty procedure improves blood flow to the heart muscle. A medical professional will insert a balloon connected to a mesh tube, which helps push the blockage out. Angioplasty manages the symptoms but does not treat the underlying causes of heart disease.
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
Unfortunately, heart surgery remains the only option for those with very advanced heart disease. Coronary artery bypass surgery utilizes a grafted blood vessel, providing an alternate path for the blocked artery to get blood to the heart. Sometimes, doctors will completely replace the diseased valves with either mechanical or tissue valves.
By making healthy lifestyle choices, people can diminish or completely eliminate the possibility of contracting some form of heart disease. Eliminating alcohol, limiting consumption of saturated and trans fats, and exercising regularly are all excellent steps to take to avoid atherosclerosis and live a life free of heart disease.