The heart muscle requires a
regular supply of oxygen and food. This is supplied by blood carried by
two blood vessels known as the left and right coronary arteries which
come from the left and right side of the body’s main artery, the aorta.
In 1 in 100 people both coronary arteries come from the same side of the
aorta. This is called an ‘anomalous coronary origin’ or ‘coronary artery
anomaly’. The unusual origin of the artery means that the artery must
take a different route to supply the heart muscle. In the majority of
people this causes no problems. However, in a small number, the abnormal
route can cause the anomalous coronary artery to be squashed or kinked
during exercise. If the blood supply to the heart is disturbed then it
can cause chest pains or dangerous arrhythmias. The cause of
coronary artery anomalies is not known; however, in most cases they do
not appear to be inherited.
Artery Anomalies (CAA)
Looking for coronary artery anomalies can be
difficult because an
ECG and even an
exercise ECG are usually normal,
even if a person is at high risk. The artery origin can be seen using an
ECHO; if both arteries are not clearly seen then a more detailed heart
scan, such as cardiac MRI or computed tomography (CT), can be used.
A person with a low-risk anomaly may not require
treatment, or may be treated with
beta-blockers and advised to avoid high levels of physical exertion. If
high-risk anomalies are found then surgery to reconnect the artery to
the right side of the aorta can be lifesaving.