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Cardiology Frequently Asked Questions

General Cardiology

What is the difference between a cardiologist and an interventional cardiologist?

Interventional cardiologists have additional training that allow them to perform "interventions," meaning they can insert stents, perform angioplasty and other similar procedures.

Are cardiologists board certified?

At each stage of their training, these specialists must pass rigorous exams that test their knowledge and judgment, as well as their ability to provide superior care.

Cardiologists, pediatric cardiologists and cardiac surgeons must first become board-certified in their primary specialty (internal medicine, pediatrics and surgery respectively), and then certified in their subspecialty (cardiology, pediatric cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery respectively).

What does F.A.C.C. mean after a doctor's name?

If your cardiology specialist adds F.A.C.C. — Fellow of the American College of Cardiology — to his or her name, it is a sign of significant accomplishment and commitment to a profession, a specialty, and to the provision of the best health care for the patient.

Election to ACC membership is based on training, specialty board certification, scientific and professional accomplishments, length of active participation in a cardiovascular-related field, and peer recognition. Members are expected to conform to high moral and ethical standards.

When should I be referred to a cardiologist?

Any time you have a significant heart or related condition, you may require the attention of a cardiologist. Their skills and training are required for decisions about heart catheterization, balloon angioplasty, heart surgery and other procedures.

Your cardiologist will review your medical history and perform a physical examination which may include checking your blood pressure, weight, heart, lungs and blood vessels. While some problems may be diagnosed from this examination, your cardiologist may order an ECG, x-ray or blood tests. In addition, an ambulatory ECG, echocardiogram, exercise test, heart catheterization and/or nuclear imaging may be required.

How do I know if I need a cardiac surgeon?

If your general doctor or cardiologist feels that surgery may be the best treatment for your heart condition and medication alone will not be enough, then you will be referred to a cardiac surgeon for further evaluation. The surgeon will review your medical records and tests, especially the heart catheterization results, if bypass, cardiac valve or heart surgery for a congenital defect is being considered. The cardiac surgeon will then discuss your case with you and your doctors, to give further advice about the risks and benefits of surgery.

Cardiac surgeons perform many operations in our hospitals, including - coronary artery bypass, heart rhythm surgery, valve replacement or repairs, and repairs of complex heart problems present from birth (congenital heart disease). They also are qualified to operate on organs other than the heart, such as the lungs, esophagus and blood vessels.

Nuclear Cardiology

I am having a nuclear medicine stress test. Will I be radioactive and is this safe?

Yes to both. You will receive a small amount of a radioactive isotope in order to assess the blood flow in the muscle of the heart. You will be radioactive for a short period of time but this is a safe procedure.

How long will it take to complete a nuclear medicine stress test?

The entire procedure takes approximately four hours. The test is done in two phases — rest and stress. The rest portion includes intake and preparation time including obtaining IV access followed by administration of isotope and a subsequent waiting period and imaging. The stress portion includes stress test preparation; the stress test itself followed by recovery time, imaging and proofing time.

Why do I need an IV for my nuclear medicine stress test?

You will receive two doses of radioactive isotopes, one at rest and the other with stress. In some cases, the stress test is completed with a pharmacologic stress agent which also is administered via IV access too.

Why can't I have caffeine for 24 hours prior to my nuclear medicine stress test?

Caffeine is a stimulant and may skew your treadmill stress test results. Caffeine also blocks the pharmacologic stress agents used in nuclear medicine, which keeps them from working, therefore skewing the results of your test.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

How does cardiac rehabilitation work?

Cardiac rehabilitation has three parts, including:

  • Phase I (Inpatient)If your cardiac condition requires a hospital stay, your rehabilitation will begin while you are in the hospital. You will learn about your heart's function, heart disease, the role diet and exercise play in your recovery, as well as begin limited physical activity.
  • Phase II (Outpatient)Phase II cardiac rehabilitation is geared toward improving quality of life and reducing the risk associated with heart problems. It is designed specifically for people who have had recent heart problems such as angina, heart attack, angioplasty and open-heart surgery. Phase II cardiac rehabilitation is offered at HealthPark Medical Center and Cape Coral Hospital.
  • Phase III (Outpatient): Phase III cardiac rehabilitation is for heart patients who have completed Phase II or need less supervision and monitoring. This program emphasizes independence while helping the patient maintain a heart healthy lifestyle. Phase III programs are offered at HealthPark Medical Center, Lee Center for Rehabilitation & Wellness and the Healthy Life Center in Cape Coral

Who performs cardiac rehabilitation therapy? 

The cardiac rehabilitation team at Lee Health consists of highly skilled health care professionals. Nurses, exercise physiologists and registered dieticians work together under the guidance of your referring physician to help you return to a healthy and active lifestyle. Our nurses are certified in advanced cardiac life support, trained in the response of the heart to exercise and they understand the process of heart disease.

How am I monitored during cardiac rehabilitation?

Your cardiac rehabilitation team will monitor your heart rhythm, heart rate, blood pressure and weight each day you attend a cardiac rehabilitation session. If you have any signs or symptoms of impending difficulties or heart problems, they will assist you in obtaining the appropriate care. If your cardiac rehabilitation team is concerned about your uncontrolled blood pressure, for example, they will discuss this with your doctor and help you reach a controlled blood pressure range.

When will I have the outpatient phase of my cardiac rehabilitation?

The outpatient phase usually will begin anywhere between two and six weeks after being discharged from the hospital.

Where is cardiac rehabilitation located?

Phase II cardiac rehabilitation is available at two locations: HealthPark Medical Center and Cape Coral Hospital.

Phase III cardiac rehabilitation is offered at HealthPark Medical Center, Lee Center for Rehabilitation & Wellness, the Healthy Life Center at Coconut Point, and the Healthy Life Center at Cape Coral.

How is the cardiac rehabilitation program covered?

The cardiac rehabilitation program may be covered by your insurance company. Since all insurance plans and companies differ, Lee Health will help determine your eligibility for the program. If you are covered, your insurance company may still require you pay a co-pay or coinsurance for each visit you attend. If your insurance company requires authorization, your cardiac rehabilitation team will request visits from your doctor. Your doctor's office will then complete an application to your insurance company to try to authorize these visits.

Phase III cardiac rehabilitation components and membership fees are specific to each location. Because Phase III is considered a maintenance program, the membership fee usually is not covered by insurance companies. Ask your physician for a Phase III cardiac rehabilitation referral.

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