What is Coronary Artery Anomaly ?
A coronary artery anomaly (CAA) is a defect in one or more of the coronary arteries of the heart. The defect is congenital (present at birth). CAAs may relate to the origin (where the artery “springs up” in the heart) or the location of the coronary artery. However, the term CAA can be used to describe any defects in a coronary artery, such as an abnormal size or shape. They are often found in patients with other congenital heart diseases. Another name for a CAA is an anomalous coronary artery (ACA).
How common is Coronary Artery Anomaly ?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of Coronary Artery Anomaly ?
Only a few kinds of CAAs will cause symptoms. For some people, the symptoms can begin in childhood, while others may not have symptoms until adulthood. But most people with a CAA do not even know they have the condition, either because they do not have any symptoms at all or because sudden cardiac death occurs.
In babies and children, some of the symptoms of a CAA may include
- Breathing problems
- Pale skin
- Poor feeding
In teens and adults, the symptoms of a CAA may include:
- Fainting during strenuous exercise (often the first and most dramatic symptom of a CAA)
- Shortness of breath at rest or during exercise
- Chest pain at rest or during exercise
Sudden cardiac death (also called sudden cardiac arrest) is the most dangerous symptom of a CAA. It is thought to happen because the abnormal coronary artery gets “squashed” between larger arteries that become stretched with blood during exercise. This means that less blood can reach the heart, which can lead to sudden death.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you or your children have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes Coronary Artery Anomaly ?
Doctors do not know the exact causes of CAAs. There are many steps in the development of the coronary arteries in the fetal heart. If anything goes wrong during any of these steps, it can lead to a CAA.
Some congenital heart diseases are strongly linked to CAAs, including persistent truncus arteriosus, transposition of the great arteries, pulmonary valve atresia, double outlet right ventricle (DORV), and tetralogy of Fallot.
Some studies have shown that certain types of CAAs can run in families, but doctors have not yet found a solid pattern to say for sure that CAAs may be hereditary.
Coronary artery anomalies are found in about 5% of people who undergo cardiac catheterization to find out why they are having chest pain.
What increases my risk for Coronary Artery Anomaly ?
Athletes or people who take part in strenuous physical activities are especially at risk of sudden cardiac death if they have a CAA. In fact, CAAs are the second leading cause of death in young athletes. Between 15% and 34% of young people who experience sudden cardiac death are later found to have a CAA.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is Coronary Artery Anomaly diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical examination, listening to the heart and lungs, and make other observations that help in the diagnosis.
- Chest X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible X-ray beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. There may be changes that take place in the lungs due to extra blood flow that can be seen on an X-ray.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle stress.
- Echocardiogram (echo). A procedure that evaluates the structure and function of the heart by using sound waves recorded on an electronic sensor to produce a moving picture of the heart and heart valves.
- Cardiac catheterization. A cardiac catheterization is an invasive procedure that gives very detailed information about the structures inside the heart. Under sedation, a small, thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin, and guided to the inside of the heart. Blood pressure and oxygen measurements are taken in the four chambers of the heart, as well as the pulmonary artery and aorta. Contrast dye is also injected to more clearly visualize the structures inside the heart.
- Computed tomography angiography (CTA). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the blood vessels.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). A type of MRI procedure used to evaluate blood flow through arteries.
- Nuclear imaging. Diagnostic scans that use very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, to identify abnormal blood flow to the heart, to determine the extent of the damage of the heart muscle after a heart attack, and/or to measure heart function.
How is Coronary Artery Anomaly treated?
Treatments include lifestyle changes, medicines, percutaneous coronary interventions, and surgery.
For patients with mild to moderate symptoms, medicines may be used, especially to prevent sudden cardiac death.
- Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat.
- Diuretics (water pills) reduce excess fluid in the body, relieving the stress on the heart’s pumping action.
- Antiarrhythmic medicines help to regulate the heartbeat.
- Oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches the heart.
Some types of CAAs can be corrected by placing a stent in the artery with the CAA. This procedure is done in the cardiac catheterization laboratory.
Surgery is sometimes performed to correct a CAA. The type of surgery needed depends on the type of CAA.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Coronary Artery Anomaly ?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Coronary Artery Anomaly :
Patients with a known and serious CAA must stay less physically active and avoid exercising too much and taking part in certain types of sports.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Coronary Artery Anomalies. https://www.texasheart.org/heart-health/heart-information-center/topics/coronary-artery-anomalies/. Accessed June 7, 2018.
Anomalous Coronary Artery (ACA). http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=anomalous-coronary-artery-aca-90-P08776. Accessed June 7, 2018.
Review Date: August 23, 2018 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019