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Frequently Asked Questions


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Frequently Asked Questions by Heart Patients
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What are the signs of a heart attack?
Heart attacks are usually associated with chest pain that is in the center of the chest or just to the left of center. The pain is usually a dull, oppressive pain that may be conceived as a pressure or weight on the chest. Patients may have left arm pain, shoulder pain or jaw pain. Right arm pain has also been reported. Shortness of breath is associated with the pain and patients may have sweating and/or nausea and vomiting. It should be noted that each person is different and any unusual symptoms that cause concern such as dizziness, feeling faint, or profound fatigue should be reported to your physician.

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Can I take Viagra?
Viagra is a medication that also causes a drop in the patient's blood pressure. It is important for patients to ask on an individual basis whether it is a medication that they can safely take with their other medications. If you are taking a nitroglycerin preparation, Viagra is NOT allowed.

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What do I need to do to see a cardiologist for the first time?
Cardiology Associates of Corpus Christi prefer that patients coming in for the first time have been properly screened by their primary care physicians. Many other medical conditions can mimic heart disease/pain. Patients can save time and money by being properly screened.

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What is a heart catheterization and why do I need one?
A heart catheterization - otherwise known as heart cath, coronary angiogram or coronary arteriograms - is an invasive test done to determine whether there are any blockages in the coronary arteries or valvular heart disease. A small plastic catheter is inserted into the femoral artery and threaded up to the heart. X-ray dye is then injected into the coronary arteries and an x-ray is taken to show whether there is any narrowing or blockage of the artery. If valvular heart disease is suspected, pressure readings are taken within the heart to determine how severe the problem is. This information enables your cardiologist to appropriately treat you either with invasive therapy or with medications.

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How do I prepare for a Heart Catheterization?
Patients having heart catheterization are asked to fast from midnight the night before their test. We want you to take your usual morning medications, however, we ask that you do not take any medication for diabetes that morning. If you take Coumadin, you will need to be off this medication for three full days prior to the procedure. If you are allergic to iodine, be sure to let your physician or his nurse know as the "dye" does contain iodine.

Your may be asked to take additional medications to block this reaction, or medication may be given to you through the IV. Please bring your medications with you when you come for your cath. Following the procedure you will be instructed about what medicine to take and when to start taking them.

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Is it normal for there to be some bruising at the site of my heart cath?
It is not uncommon for patients to notice a small amount of bruising at the cath insertion site. The catheter enters an artery where the pressure is high and there is always a small amount of blood that escapes into the tissue. If there is a large, painful area around the cath site that worsens or becomes more painful with time, notify your cardiologist.

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How do I prepare for a nuclear stress test?
Patients must be fasting for three hours prior to the test. Patients must also be free of caffeine of any type for 24 hours prior to testing. This includes coffee, tea, chocolate, white chocolate, aspirin compounds that contain caffeine, decaffeinated coffee or tea and other sodas which contain caffeine. Patients who are taking medications for lung problems, diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure and Persantine may need to alter their medications. A complete set of written instructions will be given to patients when the test is scheduled.

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Is the dye used in nuclear stress tests the same as the dye used for caths? Will I be allergic to the dye?
The dye used in nuclear stress tests is not the same as the dye used for heart caths. The dye used for nuclear testing is a solution of salt water and a nuclear isotope. It is very unusual for patients to be allergic to this substance.

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How long will my nuclear stress test take?
Nuclear stress testing can take anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete.

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How long will it take for me to get my test results?
Cardiology Associates strives to have your test results ready for reporting within two working days.

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I have had a permanent pacemaker implanted. Can I use a cell phone? What about going through a metal detector?
There is no hard and fast rule about cell phones and pacemakers. It is felt that you can use a cell phone, but use the ear opposite the pacemaker or defibrillator. Metal detectors will not harm a pacemaker or defibrillator as long as you are passing quickly through the detector. If you are concerned you can notify the people at the detector, and they will usually allow you to pass around the detector.

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Why does my dentist want to know if I need antibiotics before dental work?
Patients who have valvular heart disease or have had a valve replaced are at increased risk for infection of the heart valve. Any manipulation of the gums may cause release of bacteria into the blood stream and set up the risk for infection.

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Are the commercial blood pressure machines in stores accurate?
Blood pressure machines in large stores are okay for screening purposes and are usually fairly accurate, however, if your blood pressure reads high you should have it checked by your physician to be sure of the accuracy.

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Can I use the little nitro pills under my tongue if I am using the nitro patch?
Yes, you may use nitro pills under your tongue for chest pain if you are wearing a nitro-patch. The pills are fast acting and rapidly dilate your blood vessels to allow more blood to pass through the vessel. Nitro-patches are long acting and do not cause the rapid dilation needed for relief of chest pain.

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If I have chest pain, how many nitro pills may I take at once?
Nitroglycerine tablets under the tongue are usually taken, one tablet, every five minutes up to a total of three tablets. If the patient is still having chest pain, they are instructed to take the fourth tablet and go to the nearest emergency room for treatment.

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Why do I have to weigh every day with Congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure, or CHF, is a condition in which the heart muscle is weak and cannot pump effectively. If the heart is not able to keep up with the amount of fluid it has to pump, the fluid will escape into the tissue causing swelling. The earliest sign that this is occurring is weight gain because of the extra fluid.

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Will my cardiologist refill all my medications?
Cardiology Associates cardiologists prefer to refill only those medications having to do with your heart. Medications for conditions such as elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, blood thinners or other medications which our doctors prescribe will also be refilled. Medications having to do with other conditions which have been prescribed by your primary care doctor should be refilled by that doctor.

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Can I take generic brand medicines?
Most generic medications are fine for you to take. There are a few medications that we prefer be given as name brand. Your cardiologist will indicate this, if necessary.

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Can I take over the counter medication for colds/sinus?
Over the counter medications for colds and sinus may contain medications that act as cardiac stimulants and/or cause constriction of your blood vessels. It is best to call and ask what medications you may take.

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