The heart is fed by a series of veins and arteries. These passages transport blood to and from the heart’s chambers. When a blood clot develops in one of these arteries, it can cut off some or all of the blood flow to the heart. This is known as a coronary thrombosis.

If you have a coronary thrombosis, your heart will likely have a hard time functioning properly. It may stop altogether.

Coronary thrombosis is a common cause of sudden cardiac death. In fact, it accounts for one third of sudden cardiac deaths in the United States. That’s about 200,000 deaths each year.

This article will take a closer look at how a coronary thrombosis forms, how it’s treated, and what life is like if you develop one of these blood clots.

A coronary thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the blood vessels or arteries of the heart. The clot may obstruct blood flow to the heart partially or completely.

When this happens, the supply of blood and oxygen that the heart needs is cut off, and this can lead to a heart attack.

Additionally, the reduced blood flow may cause damage to the heart’s muscles. This means the heart has to work harder to function. This may leave you feeling out of breath, dizzy, and more tired than usual.

More rarely, a coronary thrombosis can form after a heart surgery or procedure. According to one study, there’s a small risk of coronary thrombosis following procedures such as a heart catheter placement or pacemaker implantation.

How does a blood clot form?

A blood clot forms in the heart’s arteries when a piece of plaque breaks off or ruptures. Plaque in the arteries is created by the cholesterol in the blood.

Plaque lines the blood vessels and arteries. Some people have more plaque than others, and if the plaque builds up significantly, there’s an increased risk of plaque breaking away from the wall of the blood vessel.

When these ruptures occur, blood platelets and other parts of the blood will begin to collect or coagulate around the rupture. This can lead to a clot or blockage in the blood vessel. The size of the clot will determine how much of the blood flow to the heart is obstructed.

The symptoms of a coronary thrombosis include:

  • chest pain behind the breastbone
  • pain radiating down the left arm
  • pain in the head, jaw, and ear
  • a feeling of tightness around the throat
  • breathing difficulties or shortness of breath
  • fainting
  • severe dizziness

These symptoms are a sign of a medical emergency. It’s vital that you call 911 or local emergency services or get to an emergency room immediately.

The duration and severity of the blockage may make symptoms worse. If the clot prevents blood flow entirely, you could have a cardiac arrest, which means your heart could stop beating.

Risk factors for coronary thrombosis

You may be at a higher risk of developing a blood clot in a coronary artery if you:

No, the two aren’t the same, but they’re frequently discussed as very similar conditions.

A coronary thrombosis can cause a heart attack. A blood clot will block some or all blood flow to the heart. This sudden interruption in blood flow is a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction.

If you have symptoms that are consistent with a coronary thrombosis or heart attack, the first diagnostic test you’ll have is likely an electrocardiogram. This test reads the electrical signals of your heart and can alert medical professionals to any irregularities that might indicate a heart attack or blood clot.

The only way doctors or healthcare professionals can tell for sure if you have a coronary thrombosis is to do a procedure known as cardiac catheterization.

With this procedure, a thin, flexible tube (called a catheter) is inserted into an artery in your neck, upper thigh, or arm. This tube is then threaded through your blood vessels until it gets to your heart. Once the catheter reaches your heart, it allows a doctor to visualize your heart’s arteries to see whether a clot is blocking blood flow to your heart.

A doctor may also request blood samples. Certain proteins in the blood can tell the doctor if there has been an injury to the heart’s muscles.

Treatment

If a doctor suspects you have a coronary thrombosis, they may immediately give you aspirin, as long as you’re not allergic to it. This medication helps prevent platelets from sticking together to form a larger clot.

Then, once the thrombosis is identified, you may have an emergency operation to restore normal blood flow to your heart. A cardiac catheter, also known as a balloon angioplasty, can open the artery back up.

For some people, a blood clot extraction may also be a possibility. One study suggests that removing the clot may lower the risk of death. This procedure may be especially helpful if a blood clot is large.

Smaller clots may be treated more easily with a stent, which is a mesh tube that’s placed in a blood vessel to help widen the vessel and increase blood flow.

You may also need to have medications to dissolve a clot. These drugs are typically injected or given through an IV during your stay at the hospital.

After a coronary thrombosis, you’ll need time to recover. If your heart was damaged as a result of the blood clot, you may have difficulty with physical activity and exertion. Over time, this should get better.

With treatment, many people can recover from a coronary thrombosis.

There are several steps you can take to help you recover and lower your risk of a future blood clot. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Quitting smoking: People who smoke are more likely to develop blood clots. Smoking can also slow down recovery and healing after a coronary thrombosis.
  • Getting regular exercise: This is helpful for a whole host of reasons. For people with a history of heart attack or blood clots, regular exercise can lower blood pressure, reduce blood clot formation, and help with weight management.
  • Eating a balanced diet: Focus on eating whole grains, green vegetables, and lean proteins. Fish is especially heart-healthy.
  • Managing chronic conditions: People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure have an increased risk of blood clots in the heart. Managing these conditions properly may help lower the risk of blood clots.

You may also be prescribed medication to help lower the risk of a future blood clot. Aspirin is a common option. It has blood-thinning properties that can lower the chance of a future clot or heart attack.

Beta-blockers, such as atenolol and metoprolol, can help reduce the impact of adrenaline hormones on the heart. This, in turn, can lower blood pressure and stress on the arteries.

The right medication for you will depend on a number of factors. A doctor can help you find the options that work best for you.

A coronary thrombosis is a life threatening condition. It happens when a blood clot develops in one of the heart’s arteries, cutting off some or all of the blood flow to the heart. It should be treated right away to prevent a heart attack or other fatal complications.

If you’re at risk of this condition, talk with a doctor about taking steps to lower the chance of a blood clot forming in the arteries of your heart. Lifestyle changes and medication play an important role in lowering this risk.