Complex CAD Science Center
for patients


What is CAD?

Coronary Artery Disease, or CAD, happens when plaque builds up over a period of time along the inner walls of your coronary arteries. This causes your arteries to harden and narrow, which decreases blood flow to your heart. As a result, your heart doesn’t get the blood, oxygen and nutrients it needs, which can lead to a heart attack.

Many patients with coronary artery disease have complex lesions (or blockages) that are challenging to treat with conventional techniques and tools.  These types of lesions include chronic total occlusions, which are vessels that are completely blocked for over three months. Complex lesions can also be highly calcified, difficult to cross with traditional wires or balloons or located at the intersection of two coronary arteries.  Many patients have had prior failed attempts to re-open their coronary arteries.  By collaborating with other cardiology fields, such as non-invasive imaging, advanced heart failure and cardiac surgery, such patients can be successfully treated, improving their quality, and often quantity, of life.

Who is at risk for developing CAD?

One-third of Americans have at least one these modifiable risk factors for CAD:

  • Smoking
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High cholesterol risk factors!
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity

Nonmodifiable risk factors include increased age, male gender and hereditary predisposition for CAD. 

Discuss with your physician about lifestyle changes and/or medications that can help prevent heart disease.

How common is CAD?

CAD is the most common of all heart diseases and the leading cause of death in the United States, for both men and for women – affecting 15 million American adults. 

How is CAD diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on your symptoms. Your doctor will perform a physical examination and determine if further tests are needed. These include non-invasive tests, such as an electrocardiogram, an ultrasound, a CT scan, and a stress test or invasive ones, such as an angiogram.

The first symptom of CAD can be a heart attack. A heart attack can feel different for men and women. If you think you or someone near you is having a heart attack, dial 9-1-1 immediately. You can learn about the different symptoms of CAD at

How is CAD treated?

Treatment may involve:

  • Lifestyle changes like smoking cessation
  • Medications such as aspirin (which is an antiplatelet drug) or statin (which lowers your blood lipids) depending on the extent of CAD disease
  • Invasive procedures such as balloon angioplasty and stent placement or coronary bypass graft surgery.
What happens after I get a stent?

Depending on how you feel and your physician’s clinical judgement, you may resume your dailyactivities. However, this is a great opportunity to modify potential risk factors in order to halt further progression of the disease. Compliance with medication is one of the most important goals in this case, along with a heart-healthy diet and a regular exercise program.

Physician Presentations from Life After Stent Education Event

Dr. Santiago Garcia presented “Stenting and Antiplatelet Therapy”

Dr. Michael Miedema presented “Life after Stenting: Time for a New Start”

Dr. Joao Cavalcante presented “Noninvasive Coronary Artery Imaging”

Dr. Manos Brilakis presented “A Brighter Future: Ongoing & Future Research”

Dr. Nick Burke presented “Complex Interventions: Chronic Total Occlusions, Brachytherapy and Beyond”

Physician Panel answers questions from audience at “Life After Stent” education event.

Real Patient Stories

See how other people with CCAD got back to living the lives they want

I have so much to be thankful for; I haven’t felt this good in over 10 years. It’s like night and day,” said John, who has struggled with the symptoms of coronary artery disease on and off since 1995. “Prior to the procedure, I could walk 50 yards at the very most and then I had to stop and wait for a minute or two to catch my breath again before I could go on.

Read John's Full Story

“I was just tired; I had pressure in my chest, but not like my other three heart attacks,” said Lynn. “It was more of a lighter pressure, you know? I thought it was muscle. That’s why I never went in. So when I did go in, I was 100 percent blocked.”

Read Lynn's Full Story

Shelley’s advice to others — especially women — is simple. “You’ve just got to pay attention to your body and know that there’s something different going on. Don’t be afraid to go in and get it checked. It’s better to go in, have it checked.”

Read Shelley's Full Story

“My doctor explained that Dr. Brilakis was doing things that my case would probably benefit from,” said Roger. “Meeting Dr. Brilakis, I immediately decided that this guy is the guy.”

Read Roger's Full Story

Get Involved in Our Research

Support Research

The Complex CAD Science Center works to decrease the burden of CAD through research, innovation and education. Financial support is critical to make this important work possible. Specific funding opportunities available for research projects or educational initiatives. Please consider a gift today: Donate Here or connect with MHIF’s Director of Advancement, Nancy Meyer-Wilson for more information.

Participate in a Research Study

By volunteering to participate in a research study, you are taking a more active role in your own health care and may gain early access to new treatments and medications.

By participating in a study, you are making a significant contribution to finding new and better ways to diagnose and treat you and people with your condition. Clinical research is crucial to the advancement of medical treatment and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Benefits vary by research study.

Learn more about research participation.


Current Research Studies

View our Featured Studies to determine if we are currently enrolling patients with your condition.

Our Team

The Complex Coronary Artery Disease Science Center is an international leader in research and education on complex coronary artery disease.

Meet the team of physicians, scholars and staff
who help save lives every day.

Meet the Team

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