Adult patients who experience chest pain, breathlessness, swelling of feet, palpitations, unexplained fainting may be suffering from heart ailments and should consult a cardiologist.
Patients who have been diagnosed to have hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes or high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia) or those with a strong history of heart diseases in the family should also consult a cardiologist for preventive advise.
Literally angina means chest pain or chest discomfort. Typically, angina is because of reduce blood supply to the heart muscle. Commonly, patients experience angina during exertion: when they walk or climb – Stable angina. When patients experience angina while at rest, it is called as Unstable angina and this can be an ominous sign.
Typically, angina is felt as chest pain, heaviness, burning or compression in the middle of the chest. Some people with heart disease experience only breathlessness on exertion instead of pain. This is called Angina equivalent.
Apart from a good clinical history and a thorough physical examination, the most basic tests include ECG or electrocardiogram, Echocardiography to study the structure and function of the heart chambers and valves and stress testing to find the possibility of coronary artery blocks.
Coronary angiography is a diagnostic procedure to reliably diagnose blocks in the coronary arteries. Here a fine tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery, either in the thigh or the wrist. This catheter is gently guided near the mouths of the coronary arteries and a radio-opaque dye is injected inside the coronary arteries. The flow of the dye, therefore the presence of any blocks, is visualised using X-rays as the dye passes through the coronary arteries.
The blocks in the coronary artery can be treated without resorting to cardiac surgery, with the procedure of Coronary Angioplasty (also known as Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty – PTCA). Here, a catheter similar to that used in an angiography is used to pass a balloon inside the coronary artery. The balloon is in a deflated state and once it is at the site of the block or narrowing, the balloon is increased to widen the artery. Often, the widened artery is kept dilated by inserting a stent - a thin metal tube in the shape of a spring.