During balloon angioplasty, stenting and other catheter-based heart treatments, a specialist called an interventional cardiologist performs the necessary procedure. An interventional cardiologist is a licensed cardiologist who has also had one or two years of additional training in interventional procedures-catheterization, angioplasty, stent placement and the use of other devices to remove plaque from the inside of the arteries.
Among those who will also be part of your care team during an interventional procedure, which is performed in the hospital's catheterization laboratory, or "cath" lab, are cath lab nurses. These nurses are closely involved in your care from the time you arrive at the cath lab. During the procedure, cath lab nurses assist the interventional cardiologist and monitor your condition to identify changes that may need immediate attention. Technicians and nurses watch the cath lab monitors that display your heart rhythm and rate-and notify the physician if they observe changes.
After your procedure, nurses continue to provide watchful care in the recovery area. Of particular concern is stopping any bleeding from the puncture site through which the interventional cardiologist threaded the catheter into your arteries. Nurses ask often about how your puncture site (usually in the groin area where the catheter is inserted into your arteries) feels. Plus, they are available to answer questions and teach you how to care for your puncture wound once you leave the hospital.
Most patients who are treated with angioplasty and stenting are released from the hospital on the day of, or the day after, the procedure. Your interventional or general cardiologist will inform your cardiologist about the outcome of your procedure. And your cardiologist will, in turn, communicate with your primary care physician. This way, all the key players on your team are kept up to date on your progress.
After a stent procedure, your interventional cardiologist will provide prescriptions for blood-thinning drugs, such as clopidogrel (Plavix) and aspirin. It is very important that you follow your interventional cardiologist's instructions for these medications. And even after you begin to feel better, you should never stop taking your medications at any time without speaking with your cardiologist.