Health A-Z

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If you need surgery, it probably means that several of your coronary arteries are blocked and the blockages are widespread. The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is a type of chest pain called angina. This pain is usually described as a squeezing, pressing or burning pain in the center of the chest or just below the center of the rib cage. The pain may spread to the arms (especially the left), abdomen, lower jaw or neck.

Other symptoms of blocked coronary arteries may include:

  • sweating

  • nausea

  • dizziness

  • lightheadedness

  • breathlessness

  • palpitations

Some people mistake these symptoms for indigestion.

Some people with coronary artery disease do not have any symptoms. For them, the severe chest pain of a heart attack may be the first warning that blood flow to the heart has become critically low.

Sometimes, the location of the blockage makes bypass surgery the preferred treatment. If your doctor recommends surgery, he or she has probably considered other options. These can include drug therapy, balloon angioplasty and stents. The most likely factors pushing your doctor to recommend surgery are evidence that you have widespread coronary disease, or symptoms that you are experiencing that cannot be controlled with drugs.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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