Heart blockage or blockage in the heart is said to have occurred when the body is unable to supply enough oxygen (through blood) to the heart. If the blood flow is blocked, the heart is deprived of oxygen which causes the heart cells to die. This is a symptom of coronary artery disease. It causes chest pains, heart attacks and in severe cases can even lead to death.

Causes

Cholesterol producers causing coronary artery disease

Cholesterol producers causing coronary artery disease
[Source: National Library of Medicine]

Heart blockages are a result of accumulation of fatty material along the walls of coronary arteries. This fatty material or plaque, which is made up of cholesterol and other cells, thickens, hardens (forms calcium deposits), and eventually blocks the arteries.

The slow buildup of plaque may almost block one of your coronary arteries leading to a heart attack in situations when the heart needs more blood or oxygen (e.g. when you are exercising).

Sometimes, the plaque itself develops cracks (fissures) or tears to which blood platelets stick and form a blood clot. A heart attack can occur if this blood clot completely blocks the passage of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

Certain factors like old age (above 65), male gender, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, fat-rich diet, overweight (by 30%), etc. increase your risk for coronary artery disease.

Symptoms

  • Chest pain usually on the left side
  • Pain radiating to the arms, shoulders, neck, teeth, jaw, belly area, or back
  • Anxiety
  • Palpitations (irregular heart beat or the heart beating too fast)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue and weakness (especially if you are elderly)

Tests

Your doctor may perform one or more of the following tests:

  • Coronary angiography to study how blood flows through your heart
  • Computed Tomography scan (CT scan) to create cross-sectional pictures of the chest
  • Echocardiography to create a moving picture of the heart using sound waves
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to record the electrical activity of the heart
  • Electrophysiology Study (EPS) to determine the details of irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to take pictures of your body using magnetic and radio waves
  • Nuclear ventriculography to show the heart chambers using radioactive materials called tracers

Treatment

Treatment option will depend upon the amount of blockage present. A minor blockage can be treated with the use of stents while a patient suffering from a severe heart blockage may need a heart surgery like a cardiac bypass. Following are some of the treatment options to treat blockages in the coronary artery:

  • Angioplasty: Also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), it is a procedure to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels.
  • Stent placement: A small, metal mesh tube that opens up (expands) inside a coronary artery.
  • Thrombolytic therapy: Usage of drugs to break up the clot.
  • Other medications: To treat and prevent heart attacks.
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG): A cardiac procedure to reroute or bypass blood around clogged arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen to the heart.

Cost of treatment

Depending upon the treatment required the cost can range anywhere from upwards of $20,000 in the US for a stent to approximately $10,000 in India for a bypass surgery. For a free quote for a specific surgery in the US or overseas, contact Healthbase, a US medical tourism facilitator.

If you do not carry sufficient health insurance, the medical costs of treating heart blockages can be financially straining. To learn about cheaper and high quality heart treatment overseas, check out medical tourism @ Healthbase.

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