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New Guidelines for Treatment of Clogged Arteries in the Heart

U.S. cardiology groups have published new guidelines for deciding how best to deal with clogged arteries. 

These guidelines, called "Appropriate Use Criteria for Coronary Revascularization," is said to be the first set of guidelines focused on treatment rather than diagnostic testing. The guidelines clarify under what situations people with chest pain should be treated with medication only or whether they should have an angioplasty or bypass surgery.  An angioplasty is the medical procedure in which blood flow to the heart is restored by using a balloon-tipped catheter to break up plaque in the arteries.

The guidelines categorize people by four main criteria: severity and type of symptoms; plaque levels in the arteries; amount of ischemia (how badly the heart muscle is starved for blood and oxygen, based on stress testing); and whether they already use heart medication.

The guidelines say that people with plaque buildup in less than three arteries and little heart muscle at risk, who experience symptoms only during strenuous exercise and are not on medication, should not get bypass surgery or angioplasty.