Coronary Artery Disease Complications

A heart attack is the most talked about complication of coronary artery disease, but CAD causes other heart conditions, including angina pectoris, arrhythmia, and mitral valve prolapse.

Angina Pectoris

Angina is caused by coronary artery ischemia, a condition in which there is a reduction in the amount of oxygenated blood available to the heart muscle. As the oxygen needs of the heart increase, angina is more likely to occur. The classic symptom of angina is chest pain during physical activity or emotional stress.

Angina does not cause heart tissue damage if the heart is allowed to rest and receives enough blood within a short period of time. However, as angina worsens, the risk of a heart attack increases. Read on to learn more information about angina.

Heart Attack

If angina is not well controlled, it may progress to a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked, resulting in a loss of function to that part of the muscle. If a large artery to the heart is blocked, a large portion of the heart muscle can die. If the blockage is in a small artery, the damage may be minimal. Further, if the blockage can be removed right away, some of the damaged tissue may heal. In general, however, damage to heart muscle during a heart attack is permanent: scar tissue develops where the damage occurred, leaving that section of the heart non-functional.

Early treatment is essential to surviving a heart attack. Read on to learn more about heart attack treatments.

Heart Failure

The scar tissue left after a heart attack changes the shape of the heart and impairs heart muscle function. Depending on the size and location of the scar these changes can result in heart failure, the end-stage of several other heart conditions including arrhythmia and mitral valve prolapse.


Electrical impulses in the heart set the speed and pace of the heartbeat. A normal heart beats at a rate of sixty to a hundred beats a minute. Scar tissue from heart attacks can interfere with these electric signals, causing an abnormal heartbeat, or arrhythmia.

The two basic types of arrhythmia are bradycardia and tachycardia. Bradycardia is a slow heart beat: the heart beat drops to less than sixty beats a minute. Tachycardia, or “rapid heart beat,” describes a heart beat of more than a hundred beats a minute. Ventricular tachycardia is one of the most dangerous forms of arrhythmia. This occurs when the ventricles, the largest chambers of the heart, beat so fast that they cannot pump blood adequately.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse occurs when the valve between the heart’s left atrium and ventricle fails to close properly. Prolapse is used to describe this condition because the mitral valve sometimes bulges out as it tries to close. The mitral valve must close correctly to keep blood flowing properly through the chambers of the heart.

Heart attack scar tissue can cause a mitral valve prolapse, as can a number of other health conditions. As the mitral valve closes, a “click” or “murmur” may sometimes be heard with a stethoscope. A mitral valve prolapse may also be silent.

Symptoms of mitral valve prolapse vary. Some people experience no symptoms, while others experience shortness of breath, a “skipping” heartbeat, dizziness and sometimes chest pain.