Definition and Overview

A cardiology follow-up consultation is normally scheduled as part of a continuous heart care program or to determine the extent of a particular cardiac problem and decide on the most appropriate form of treatment.

The majority of heart problems do not have a cure and can only be managed to prevent them from worsening. Even if the solution is a heart transplant procedure, periodic follow-up consultations will still be required to monitor the new heart. Therefore, anybody diagnosed with a heart condition can expect to make regular visits to a cardiologist; for some, this could mean for the rest of their lives.

A cardiology follow-up after an initial consultation is usually still part of the initial diagnostic process. While doctors may already have a general idea of the patient’s condition after the initial consultation, more tests are typically performed to confirm the diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan.

Succeeding follow-up consultations are normally geared towards the treatment and management of the condition. With strict monitoring, patients with heart problems are able to improve their quality of life even if their condition cannot be cured.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

The heart is one of the most important muscles of the body, not just because of its function, but also because once damaged it is difficult to repair. In some cases, a heart replacement may be the only option.

Fortunately, most heart conditions develop over a longer period of several years. This makes it possible to detect the condition while it is still in its early stages.

However, even early detection is possible, a cure for the condition may not be available. In such cases, the best option would be to prevent the condition from getting worse by using certain medications, making lifestyle changes and through continuous monitoring.

Anybody who has been diagnosed with any of the heart conditions listed below are required to make regular follow-up visits:

  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmias
  • Congenital heart diseases
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart valve diseases
    Those who are wearing pacemakers and discharged from the hospital following surgery or procedure that involved the heart must also make regular follow-ups.

The expected results of a follow-up consultation differ based on the patient’s condition and the goal of the treatment. For instance, if the patient has undergone all the necessary tests during previous visits, then it is highly likely that the cardiologist will provide a diagnosis and recommend a form of treatment on the follow-up visit.

However, if the objective is to monitor the patient’s condition and it was discovered that the condition is worsening, the doctor may need to adjust the treatment plan or even ask the patient to be admitted in a hospital setting for closer monitoring and treatment.

How Does the Procedure Work

The actual procedures of a cardiology follow-up consultation differ according to the patient’s condition, the goal of the follow-up and the severity of the patient’s condition, among others. However, the basics are usually the same. These include:

  • Obtaining the necessary paperwork or documentation, such as patient’s medical records and insurance information
  • Interview the patient and conduct a physical examination
  • Perform diagnostic tests if required
  • Discuss findings with the patient
  • Schedule next follow-up consultation as necessary
    The duration of the consultation depends on the condition of the patient and the diagnostic tests that need to be performed. Some patients require cardiac examinations to determine the effectiveness of a treatment plan that they are currently in. These tests can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour including preparation.

Possible Risks and Complications

Cardiology follow-up consultations rarely involve any invasive medical procedures. However, some tests may be a bit invasive, such as cardiac catheterization. This particular test involves inserting a catheter up an artery and guiding it towards the heart to obtain images of the heart chambers.

Other procedures, such as an ECG, CT scan and echocardiogram are non-invasive and do not present too much of a risk or possibility of complications. Invasive procedures, such as those described above do have associated risks that must be discussed with the doctor prior to the procedure.

Reference:

  • American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation endorsed by the World Heart Federation and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;58:2432-46.
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