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 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
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 who have 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.