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Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) (cont.)

How does coronary disease develop?

The major problem that develops with coronary arteries is the narrowing of their inner passageway (lumen), which in turn restricts, or in severe situations stops the flow of blood to the heart muscle. This restriction or stoppage of blood flow causes heart muscle damage or death because of lack of oxygen. If the occluded coronary artery is a small branch, it is possible that only a small segment of heart muscle will be injured or die, but the person will likely survive. If the occluded artery is large, death is more likely. Angina or chest pain occurs when a coronary artery becomes occluded enough to cause a reduced blood flow that does not meet the demand for oxygen required by the heart muscle.

The most frequent cause of coronary artery narrowing is cholesterol deposits (plaques) that build up in the arteries. Limiting cholesterol in the diet or by slowing its synthesis by the body with medication (or both) are major ways to help limit arterial narrowing. Many other factors may play a role in coronary heart disease such as genetics, disease such as diabetes, lifestyles such as choosing to smoke, and even drug abuse such as using cocaine.

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