Frequently Asked Questions
When I see a cardiologist, what is involved in a basic office visit?
The cardiac work-up involves two parts – a history and a physical (H & P). The physician asks the patient a series of questions in order to obtain information that could be relevant to underlying symptoms of cardiac disease. Some of these questions include:
- Your chief complaint
- Other heart related complaints or past “incidents”
- Medications you are currently taking
- Past illnesses and surgeries
- Family history
- Non-cardiac complaints
- Lifestyle information (smoking, alcohol consumption, etc. )
Your history will determine whether or not you need to have further testing for specific illnesses and how urgent the need for testing is.
After the taking your history, your cardiologist will perform a physical examination, which includes listening to your heart beat, lungs and blood vessels of the neck and groin; taking your pulse rate; checking your extremities for edema; and feeling your abdomen for tenderness or swelling.
Can I make a cardiology appointment directly?
Most health care plans require prior approval or referral. You can check with your provider or call Cape Fear Cardiology at 910-485-6470 to find out if prior approval is needed.
What happens if I call for information from my doctor?
When you call with a problem or request for information directed to your physician, we will take your message, attach it to your chart and pass it on for your physician to review. An assistant, acting on your physician’s order, will call you back. Note that your physician is not in the office every day of the week. Your message will be addressed on a day that he or she has office visits scheduled.
What should I do in an emergency?
While Cape Fear Cardiology always has cardiologists on call, as an office practice we are not equipped to handle emergencies directly. If you need immediate attention, you should call 911.
What happens if I need to be hospitalized?
Cape Fear Cardiology currently maintains inpatient service primarily at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Therefore, we recommend that you be hospitalized there, which will allow us to provide you with continuous care and supervision.
Our cardiologists work on a rotating “on call” schedule to see hospitalized patients, so you may not be seen by the cardiologist you know from your office visits. However, our cardiologists work as a team, and they are all acquainted with our hospitalized patients. The physician who sees you in the hospital will be thoroughly familiar with your situation.
How can I refill a prescription?
Requests for refills can be handled during our regular office hours (Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm). When you call our office, you will be connected with our “refill line” to leave a message with the information regarding your request.
What should I do if I need a copy of my records?
Patient records are confidential. If you need a copy to be sent to another party, you must sign written approval to release the information. We ask that you please keep us informed of any changes in your address, phone, or insurance coverage.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack is an event that can damage your heart. Sometimes, it can be life-threatening, even fatal. Occasionally, someone may have a heart attack and not even know it. The cause of most heart attacks is a sudden clot in a blood vessel that feeds the heart. This blood vessel may be filled with fat and a substance called “plaque” that slows blood flow in the artery or eventually breaks open, causing a clot that stops blood flow to an area of your heart muscle.
What symptoms suggest that I might be having a heart attack?
The major symptoms are chest discomfort, often a heavy feeling in the center of the chest, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, dizziness and a feeling of impending doom. Many people, however, do not have typical symptoms. They may feel jaw discomfort, arm pain, severe weakness or worsening fatigue doing activities that previously were very easy to perform. If you experience any of these symptoms, get help quickly. Call 911 if these symptoms are sudden, recurrent, severe or persistent. Contact your doctor if you have brief symptoms, even if you feel better. Preventing a heart attack before it happens is far better than treating the consequences of heart damage.
What is angina?
Angina – or chest pain – can occur when the supply of oxygen, which is carried by blood to the heart, is inadequate. Angina can be described as a feeling of tightness, fullness, squeezing, heaviness, burning or pain in the center of the chest. It may be a recurring symptom. Angina can also be transferred to the left breast, left shoulder, arm, throat, jaw and or even the upper abdomen. Patients may also experience shortness of breath, sweating, weakness, dizziness, or numbness in the upper extremities with symptoms of nausea.
What is congestive heart failure (CHF)?
CHF is a condition whereby the heart can’t pump enough blood to the other organs in the body. It can result from a variety of causes including coronary artery disease, a past heart attack that left scar tissue in the heart muscle, high blood pressure, primary heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy) and other causes.
As blood flow out of the heart slows, blood returning to the heart through the veins backs up, causing congestion in the tissues. Swelling (edema) can occur, most often in the legs and ankles, but it can happen in other parts of the body as well. Fluid can also collect in the lungs and cause shortness of breath, especially when a person is lying down. In addition, heart failure affects the kidneys’ ability to dispose of sodium and water, and the retained water increases the edema.
What training is required to become a cardiologist?
Cardiologists must graduate from an approved medical school, must complete an accredited internal medicine residency program of at least three years, and complete a subspecialty clinical education program (fellowship) in cardiology of at least three years. Some cardiologists also complete one-two additional years of subspecialty training in interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, nuclear cardiology or echocardiography.
What does it mean for a cardiologist to be Board Certified?
The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a not-for-profit organization, assists 24 approved medical specialty boards in the development and use of standards in the ongoing evaluation and certification of physicians. ABMS, recognized as the “gold standard” in physician certification, believes higher standards for physicians means better care for patients. If your doctor is certified by an ABMS Member Board, it means he or she is dedicated to providing exceptional patient care. In addition to completing years of schooling, fulfilling residency requirements, passing the exams required to practice medicine in your state, and passing board certification examinations, your Board Certified specialist participates in an ongoing process of continuing education.
All of the cardiologists at Cape Fear Cardiology are Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease. We also have cardiologists on our staff who are Board Certified in interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, nuclear cardiology or echocardiography.
Do your cardiologists perform heart surgery?
No. While our cardiologists perform non-invasive and invasive procedures (such as cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and stenting), they do not perform heart surgery. However, we work with excellent cardiothoracic surgeons to whom we can refer patients.