What is the role of a primary care physician in caring for people who have coronary artery disease?
In some cases, your primary care physician (PCP)-usually an internist or family medicine physician-will coordinate your care. He or she may 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 tests, and looks for signs of other diseases.
After you are diagnosed with CAD, your PCP will help you build a treatment plan. He or she will also decide if you need to start taking medicines or if you need certain procedures to diagnose how severe your CAD is. For this reason, it is important that you are open with your doctor. Make sure that he or she knows of any changes in your symptoms.
In general, you should visit your PCP once every few months. This is a good chance to make sure that you are on track with your CAD treatment and to continue with your general medical care. Along with a physical exam at each visit, you and your doctor should review how you're doing with lifestyle changes and 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 who have coronary artery disease?
In some cases, a cardiologist will be your main 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 many things, including the nature of your condition and the relationship you may already have with either doctor. 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.