What to Expect from a Heart Clinic Visit

  • Posted on: Mar 25 2021
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What is a Heart Clinic?

A heart clinic specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) disease. The physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who have received specialized training, treat cardiovascular disease and disorders with a variety of therapies, including:

  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Medications
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Various invasive procedures (minimally, moderately, or fully invasive) such as pacemakers, defibrillators, electrophysiology studies, coronary or vascular angioplasty (process of opening up blockages in an artery) and referrals for coronary artery bypass grafting.

Your cardiologist assesses the severity of your disease, as well as your current state of health and lifestyle, and recommends the best treatment for your individual needs.

What to Bring with You to Your Appointment

The better prepared you are to meet with your cardiologist, the better equipped you’ll be to manage your heart condition. Here are some ways you can prepare for your first visit.

Many medical offices have new patient forms online that can be completed in advance so you’ll have time to gather the necessary information. You can also request that your existing medical records from any doctor be sent to your cardiologist. Items needed for your first visit include:

  • List of your current health insurance information
  • List of all current medications and dosages
    • Your pharmacy can print your prescription drug information and history
    • Include over-the-counter medications and supplements with dosages
    • Add any drug allergies and adverse reactions
  • Family medical history – is there a history of:
    • Heart disease
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • High cholesterol
    • Aneurysm
  • Personal medical history
    • List all healthcare providers, including your primary care physician and any specialists
    • Copies of recent lab or test results
    • Dates and types of past surgeries
    • Past and current health issues
  • List of your questions highlighting your top concerns

Meeting with the Cardiologist

What are Cardiologists?

Cardiologists are physicians who have trained specifically in the treatment of the cardiovascular system, which includes your blood vessels and heart. They educate patients about the habits that promote heart health. Cardiologists are qualified to treat:

  • Arrhythmias
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart disease
  • Vascular disease

Electrophysiologists are cardiologists that are trained in treating various heart arrhythmias, while cardiovascular interventionalists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of blockages of the vascular system.

What Your Cardiologist Will Do and Discuss with You

After you’re checked in and in an exam room, a medical assistant or nurse will check your vital signs and ask you some basic questions about how you are doing. Your cardiologist will review the information you have provided, perform a physical exam and discuss your current condition and concerns.

Your cardiologist will discuss various diagnostic tests important for a proper diagnosis. They may also prescribe medication and recommend healthy lifestyle changes such as a nutritious heart-healthy diet, physical exercise and ways to reduce stress levels and manage weight, if that is an issue.

Diagnostic Testing

There are a variety of diagnostic tests available to help your cardiologist come to an accurate diagnosis. The following is a partial list of the most common tests. Your cardiologist may order additional tests not listed here.

  • Laboratory testing. Bloodwork that can help to monitor your physical health.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). An EKG is a common, painless test that records the electrical signals of your heart. The purpose of an EKG is to help assess the electrical condition of the heart. In addition, there are now personal wearable devices that offer EKG remote monitoring.
  • Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram (echo) is a common test that produces images of your heart by using sound waves. Your cardiologist is able to assess the function of your heart and assess the health of your valves through this test. There are various types of echocardiograms, each with its own purpose:
    • Transthoracic echocardiogram with doppler is an ultrasound test of the heart where a transducer is placed against the skin and uses sound waves to assess images of the heart; an intravenous line with an image enhancing agent may be used in some cases to gain a clearer picture.
    • Transesophageal echocardiogram with doppler is a more invasive test which details images of the heart that may not be seen as well with a standard transthoracic echocardiogram. A transducer is passed into the esophagus to obtain pictures. This procedure is performed using sedation prior to performing the test.
    • Stress echocardiogram checks for the function of the heart while exercising which can help to assess the health of your heart’s blood flow.
  • Stress test (or exercise stress test). A stress test shows how the heart works during physical activity, when the heart must pump faster and harder. It can detect blood flow problems and can be used to detect arrhythmia (an irregular heart rhythm) that occur during exercise. A stress test can also be performed through medication that mimics the effects of exercise.
  • Coronary angiogram. This is an invasive study that assesses for any potential blockages in the arteries of the heart. Procedures can then be performed to help open up these blockages.
  • Peripheral angiogram. This is an invasive study that assesses for any potential blockages in the arteries of the arms or legs. Procedures can then be performed to help open up these blockages.
  • Cardiac monitors. Various cardiac monitors such as Holter monitors, event monitors or mobile cardiac outpatient telemetry monitors are small, wearable devices worn for anywhere between 24 hours and 30 days. These track the heart’s rhythm and help to assess for any irregular heart rhythms that may be occurring.
  • Electrophysiology study. These are invasive procedures that help to assess abnormalities of the heart’s electrical system and can lead to a procedure that can help fix these electrical issues that lead to arrhythmias.

After testing, your cardiologist will interpret the results and discuss your diagnosis and the proper treatment options with you.

Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates is committed to providing the highest quality of care in a patient-centered environment. Our offices are conveniently located in Flemington, Clinton, and Bridgewater. Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates was recently named a patient-centered specialty practice and accredited by NCQA, The National Committee of Quality Assurance. We have subspecialty clinics available to be sure our patients receive the proper care for their condition. To make an appointment with one of our cardiologists, please contact us today.

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