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Coronary Artery Disease Screening Tests (CAD) (cont.)

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What is the most accurate method of defining CAD?

The "gold standard" for the evaluation of CAD remains the coronary angiogram. Coronary angiography can be used to identify the exact location and severity of CAD; it is described below.

Coronary angiography

During a coronary angiogram (also termed a coronary catheterization), a small catheter (a thin hollow tube with a diameter of 2-3 mm) is inserted through the skin into an artery usually in either the groin or the arm. Guided with the assistance of a fluoroscope (a special X-ray viewing instrument), the catheter is then advanced to the opening of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart. Next, a small amount of radiographic contrast (a solution containing iodine, which is easily visualized with X-ray images) is injected into each coronary artery. The images that are produced are called the angiogram.

Angiographic images accurately reveal the extent and severity of all coronary arterial blockages. Coronary angiography is performed with the use of local anesthesia and intravenous sedation, and is generally not terribly uncomfortable. The procedure takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes. After the procedure, the catheter is removed and the artery in the leg or arm is sutured, "sealed," or treated with manual compression to prevent bleeding. There is a small risk of serious complications from coronary angiography, as it is an "invasive" test, but in the hands of experienced physicians, this risk is quite small (well below one per cent). In appropriate patients, the therapeutic information learned from the angiogram is far more valuable than the relatively small risk of the procedure.

For patients with severe angina or heart attack (myocardial infarction), or those who have markedly abnormal noninvasive tests for CAD, the angiogram also helps the doctor select the optimal treatment, which may include medications, balloon angioplasty, coronary stent placement, or coronary bypass surgery. The coronary angiogram is the only test which allows the precise quantification of the extent and severity of CAD to optimally make these treatment decisions.

Picture of a coronary ballooon angiogram
Picture of a coronary ballooon angiogram
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/5/2014

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Cardiology Question: Do you have coronary artery disease? Which of the tests mentioned in the article did the doctor use to diagnose you?
Cardiology Question: What symptoms prompted you to seek out the doctor who diagnosed you with coronary artery disease?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/coronary_artery_disease_screening_tests_cad/article.htm

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