Science Questions

Is heart disease reversible?

Sun, 2nd Sep 2007

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Bob, Southend on sea asked:

Is heart disease reversible?


Heart disease is when the arteries of the heart become blocked.  If you have a heart attack then the arteries have become so blocked that some of your heart muscle becomes starved of blood and can die.  At the moment we have no way to re-grow heart tissue, although muscle stem cells show promise.

There are ways to clear the blockage and open up the arteries again.  One way is to open the chest and perform a bypass operation, where a bit of vein from somewhere else in the body, usually the saphenous vein from the leg, is grafted on as a bridge to allow blood to flow around the blockage.  The newer way to do this, and much less invasive, is to thread a line up through the femoral artery in the leg and into the heart.  Using a scanner to see where you are, you put a wire inside the coronal artery and blow up a baloon which squashes the blockage out of the way.  You can then prop the artery open using a metal cage called a stent.  New stents are available which resease drugs to stop further blockage of the artery.


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