Coronary Artery Disease

From diagnosis to treatment, you can get the most advanced care for coronary artery disease at UC San Diego Health.

Cardiologists, surgeons and other experts at our Cardiovascular Institute work together to give you comprehensive and personalized care.

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) — also called coronary heart disease — occurs when the inner walls of your coronary arteries have a buildup of cholesterol and fatty deposits called plaques.

These deposits may start in childhood and continue to thicken and enlarge throughout your lifespan. This thickening — called atherosclerosis — can cut or block blood flow to the heart.

A heart attack is often the first symptom of CAD.

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How is CAD Diagnosed?

Your health care provider will ask about your health history and do a physical exam. You may also need these tests before a coronary artery disease diagnosis:

Patients with heart attacks have the best outcomes in hospitals such as UC San Diego Health, which offer emergency cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and stent placement. Our interventional cardiologists perform a high volume of these procedures.

How is Coronary Heart Disease Treated?

Lifestyle changes

A heart-healthy lifestyle can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and slow or stop coronary heart disease. This may include:

  • Quitting smoking, if you smoke
  • Exercising
  • Losing weight
  • Eating healthier foods such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables

View Our Cardiac Rehabilitation and Wellness Services


Many medicines can treat coronary heart disease. These include antiplatelets, such as aspirin, which lower the risk of blood clotting. You may also take medicines that lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and treat diabetes.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

These kinds of procedures use catheters, balloons and other tools to open the blocked blood vessel and improve blood flow to the heart. These include:

  • Balloon angioplasty: A small balloon is inflated inside the blocked artery to open the blocked part.
  • Coronary artery stent: A tiny mesh coil is expanded inside the blocked artery to open the blocked part. It is left in place to keep the artery open. This is done with balloon angioplasty.
  • Atherectomy: The blocked part inside the artery is cut away by a tiny device on the end of a catheter.
  • Laser angioplasty: A laser is used to "vaporize" the blockage in the artery.

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG)

This surgery uses arteries or veins from the body to reroute blood around a blockage in the coronary arteries.

Contact Us

New and Current Patients

Phone: 858-657-8530


Phone: 858-657-8817
Fax: 858-657-1252

Cardiovascular Locations

See heart care locations conveniently located around San Diego County.