Myocardial Ischemia

What is Myocardial Ischemia?

Myocardial ischemia occurs when there is a deficiency in the blood supply that is going to the heart muscle, which in turn prevents it from getting enough oxygen to function properly. Reduced blood flow is typically caused by a blockage, whether partial or complete, of the coronary arteries of the heart. The condition can lead to significant damage to the heart muscles that hinders its ability to pump blood as it should.

Myocardial ischemia can progress slowly or set in quickly. If the blockage is sudden and severe, it can cause the patient to experience a heart attack. The disorder can also result in abnormal heart rhythms, some of which may be serious. Medical conditions that have been known to cause myocardial ischemia include blood clots, coronary artery disease, and coronary artery spasms. Additionally, some habits and medical issues increase a patient’s risk of developing the disorder, such as high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and lack of physical activity.

What are the Symptoms of Myocardial Ischemia?

Some patients will not experience any signs of the condition, which is known as silent ischemia. When symptoms do appear, they often include:

  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Jaw or neck pain
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Arm or shoulder pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath with activity
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating 

When chest pain is present, it can be triggered by any number of situations such as emotional stress, illicit drug use, physical exertion, and cold temperatures.

How is Myocardial Ischemia Treated?

To treat myocardial ischemia, doctors recommend therapies aimed at improving blood flow to the muscles of the heart. Various medications can prove beneficial, such as nitrates, aspirin, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and drugs for lowering cholesterol.

Some cases may require more aggressive treatment in the form of surgical procedures. Depending on the severity, this could involve coronary artery bypass surgery, stenting, or angioplasty

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Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017