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Coronary Artery Disease: Roles of Different Doctors

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

After you are diagnosed with CAD, your PCP will help you build a treatment plan and will also decide whether you need to start taking medicines or whether you need certain procedures to diagnose the severity of your CAD. For this reason, it is important that you are open with your doctor and make sure that he or she knows of any changes in your symptoms.

In general, you should visit your PCP once every few months to make sure that you are on track with your CAD treatment and to continue with your general medical care. In addition to a physical exam at each visit, you and your doctor should review your progress with lifestyle modifications and, if applicable, experiences with your prescribed medicines. If you have new or changing symptoms, your PCP may do or request tests to check your heart.

Most primary care physicians are qualified to develop and manage treatment plans for chronic diseases such as CAD. But if you develop complications or have more severe CAD that needs a procedure or surgery as treatment, your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist.

What are the roles of specialists in caring for people with coronary artery disease?

In some cases, a cardiologist will serve as your primary point of contact in treating and managing your CAD. Whether you work more closely with a primary care physician (PCP) or a cardiologist depends on a number of factors, including the nature of your condition and the relationship you may already have with either physician. Whether you see your cardiologist to treat mild atherosclerosis or to provide follow-up care after a major surgery, this specialist will add heart-specific expertise to your treatment plan.

What is the role of an interventional cardiologist?

An interventional cardiologist can do a cardiac catheterization, an invasive procedure used to take X-rays of your arteries and diagnose any narrowed areas in your coronary arteries. An interventional cardiologist can also do an angioplasty and place stents during a cardiac catheterization to open narrowed or blocked arteries.

What is the role of a cardiac surgeon?

In some people, an open-chest surgery, called bypass surgery, may be recommended to bypass the blocked vessel and allow blood to reach the heart.

A cardiothoracic surgeon (also called a cardiovascular surgeon or a cardiac surgeon) is a specialist trained to do this surgery.

What are the roles of other specialists?

If you develop certain CAD-related complications, you may need to see a number of other specialists to treat your specific conditions. For example, you may need to see a nephrologist (kidney specialist) if you develop kidney problems or a neurologist (brain and nervous system specialist) if CAD leads to a stroke. Your primary care physician will direct you to the specialists who are skilled in treating your specific condition. You may be referred to the following specialists:

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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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