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Signs & Symptoms Heart & Vascular

Chronic Total Occlusion
Signs and Symptoms

Unlike an acute – or abrupt – blockage, which typically causes a heart attack, CTOs develop over time. When you have a CTO, your heart is receiving less blood – and therefore less oxygen – than normal. But you may not notice a problem because blood is still reaching your heart through open arteries or through new tiny blood vessels that the heart develops in response to the CTO – as a detour around it. For many people, symptoms show up only during exercise or exertion. These include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased ability or inability to exercise
  • Abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmia)

Risk factors for CTO are mostly the same as for coronary artery disease. They include:

  • Family history of the condition
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • High bloodstream cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Insufficient physical exercise
  • History of heart attack
  • History of bypass surgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.