You might come under a cardiologist's care for having risk factors for cardiovascular disease or for existing disease that is stable or acute. Cardiovascular disease is stable when it is present but symptoms only appear occasionally, such as during exercise. Acute cardiovascular disease is when symptoms are severe enough to need urgent and immediate attention.
No matter what the severity of your cardiovascular disease when you enter a cardiologist's care, you will become a part of the continuum, or spectrum, of care. The spectrum of care describes treatment options that range from least invasive to most invasive: lifestyle changes, medical therapy, angioplasty and stenting, and surgery. Your cardiologist will assess your level of disease and talk with you about your treatment options. Part of the discussion will include your expectations for quality of life and how active you hope to be.
The severity of disease determines where your treatment will fall in the continuum of care. If you have risk factors only for cardiovascular disease, you may be prescribed medication and lifestyle changes. If you have stable cardiovascular disease, your treatment may require lifestyle changes, medication, and angioplasty and stenting. For severe cardiovascular disease, your treatment could consist of all those treatment options plus surgery.
To see how a cardiologist might evaluate a patient's best treatment within the spectrum of care, click on the link below for the interactive media, which presents case studies of five coronary artery disease patients.