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Coronary Artery Disease: Roles of Different Doctors

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Topic Overview

What health professionals are involved in taking care of people with coronary artery disease?

Following the diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD), you should visit your primary care physician every few months to track your condition and ensure that your treatment is going as planned. If you have complications or need special procedures (such as cardiac catheterization or open-heart surgery), you may need treatment from a variety of specialists.

Understanding your health professionals' roles

Depending on how severe your CAD is and whether you already have complications, you may need a team of health professionals to help treat your disease and manage your treatment plan.

The following table outlines the types of health professionals who may be involved in the treatment of CAD and related complications.

Health professionals for CAD

Health professional

Who are they?

What is their role?

When would you see them?

Primary care physicianInternist, family physicianManage medical careRegular visits (about 2 to 4 per year)
CardiologistHeart specialist

Provide specialty medical care

Sometimes for regular visits or when CAD gets worse
Other physiciansNephrologist (kidney specialist), cardiovascular surgeon (heart surgeon), neurologist (brain/nerve specialist)Provide specialty medical care for complications of CADWhen complications arise or when special procedures need to be done
Nurse educatorSpecific type of nurseEducate you and help you take controlWhenever medicines, diet, or self-management needs to be explained

Cardiac rehabilitation team

Doctor, nurse specialist, dietitian, exercise therapist, and physical therapist

Help you recover from an event or procedure and make healthy lifestyle changes

During the rehab program

Psychiatrist, psychologist, or social workerMental health professionalHelp you cope with psychological aspects of diseaseRegularly (perhaps weekly), for as long as you need
DietitianNutritional expertHelp you with heart-healthy dietInitially, and whenever diet needs to be changed

Although you may not need help from all of these providers, it is good to be aware of the full range of professionals you may encounter at some point during the course of your treatment. If you need the help of other health professionals, you should keep in constant contact with your primary care doctor and report any changes in the way you feel or any medicine-related side effects. Each individual's experience with CAD and with its complications is different. Your health professionals will help tailor your treatment to best suit your needs.

What is the role of a primary care physician in caring for people with coronary artery disease?

In some cases, your primary care physician (PCP)—usually an internist or family medicine physician—will serve as your care coordinator and be responsible for the day-to-day medical management of your coronary artery disease. In these cases, your PCP will be the one who evaluates your risk factors, does diagnostic tests, and looks for evidence of other diseases.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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