How is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) Diagnosed?


If you are not experiencing an emergency related to coronary artery disease (like a heart attack) your doctor will begin the diagnosis process by discussing your symptoms and medical history. They will then perform one or more tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Tests used to diagnose coronary artery disease may include:

  • Echocardiogram. Using sound waves, a doctor can create an image of the heart and examine how blood moves through the arteries and valves.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). Using multiple sensors, a physician can painlessly measure the electrical activity of the heart and gain information about its rhythm and if you’ve suffered a heart attack.
  • Chest X-ray. An X-ray can provide a picture of your heart that helps your doctor examine your heart and lungs.
  • Stress test. Your doctor may ask you to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while they perform an ECG, which can give them more information about how your heart functions under stress.
  • Cardiac catheterization. A doctor inserts a catheter into a major artery and moves it toward the heart. Dye is pushed through the catheter, which can help your physician see your blood vessels more clearly and identify any areas of narrowing.

How is Coronary Artery Disease Treated?


Coronary artery disease can be treated with various methods, including lifestyle changes, medications and surgery. A combination of the three may be used for coronary artery disease treatment.

Lifestyle changes

Reducing your risk factors for coronary artery disease can help improve your condition and prevent further plaque blockage in your arteries. Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking can reduce your cholesterol levels and the likelihood of your arteries becoming blocked.


Most with coronary artery disease benefit from medications to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. NewYork-Presbyterian doctors prescribe these medications to reduce the amount of atherosclerosis in your heart arteries and widen the channel through which blood flows. You may also benefit from drugs for high blood pressure and diabetes and to relieve the pain of angina.


The main surgical treatments for coronary artery disease aim to reduce plaque blockages in the arteries and prevent further blockages. A doctor may perform a coronary angioplasty by inserting a catheter into an artery and guiding it to the narrowed part of the blood vessel. They then inflate a small balloon to improve blood flow and place a mesh tube (stent) to prevent the artery from narrowing again.

A coronary artery bypass and graft surgery (CABG) is usually performed on patients with multiple narrowed arteries and involves removing a healthy blood vessel from elsewhere in the body — usually the chest or one of the limbs — and inserting it to create a new path to the heart.

Whenever appropriate, coronary artery bypass surgery is performed through small incisions, sometimes using a surgical robot. Some people benefit from “off-pump” beating heart surgery, which can be accomplished without needing a heart-lung machine. Additionally, many patients benefit from “hybrid” procedures, in which catheter-based and minimal-access surgical treatments are combined to achieve the best results in the least invasive way.

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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Coronary Artery Disease Treatment

At NewYork-Presbyterian, we use heart monitoring and diagnostic tools to make a timely and accurate diagnosis of your heart disease, reducing the disruption to your life and getting you back home as soon as possible. Our cardiologists carefully assess your health and analyze test results to match you with the medications that are most likely to help you. Based on the test results, we’ll determine which therapy is best for you.