Cardiology is the study and treatment of disorders of the heart and the blood vessels. A person with heart disease or cardiovascular disease may be referred to a cardiologist.
Cardiology is a branch of internal medicine. A cardiologist is not the same as a cardiac surgeon. A cardiac surgeon opens the chest and performs heart surgery.
A cardiologist specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the cardiovascular system. The cardiologist will carry out tests, and they may perform some procedures, such as heart catheterizations, angioplasty, or inserting a pacemaker.
Heart disease relates specifically to the heart, while cardiovascular disease affects the heart, the blood vessels, or both.
To become a cardiologist in the United States, it is necessary to complete 4 years of medical school, 3 years of training in internal medicine, and at least 3 years specializing in cardiology.
When would I need a cardiologist?
If a person has symptoms of a heart condition, their physician may refer them to a cardiologist.
Symptoms that can indicate a heart problem include:
Shortness of Breath
Changes in Heart Rate or Rhythm
High Blood Pressure
What does cardiology involve?
A cardiologist will review a patient’s medical history and carry out a physical examination.
They may check the person’s weight, heart, lungs, blood pressure, and blood vessels, and carry out some tests.
An interventional cardiologist may carry out procedures such as angioplasties, stenting, valvuloplasties, congenital heart defect corrections, and coronary thrombectomies.
They may also carry out or order tests as listed below:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG):
this records the electrical activity of the heart.
this records heart rhythms while the person carries out exercise or their regular activities. Small metal electrodes are stuck on to the chest, and these are connected by wires to a Holter monitor, which records the rhythms.
An exercise test, or stress test:
this shows the changes of heart rhythm when resting and exercising. It measures the performance and limitations of the heart.
this provides an ultrasound picture that shows the structure of the heart chambers and surrounding areas, and it can show how well the heart is working.
Electrocardiography can measure how well the heart is pumping blood, known as cardiac output. It can detect inflammation around the heart, known as pericarditis. It can also identify structural abnormalities or infections of the heart valves.
a small tube in or near the heart collects data and may help relieve a blockage. It can take pictures and check the functioning of the heart and the electrical system. Catheter-based techniques with fluoroscopy can be used to treat congenital cardiac, valvular, and coronary artery diseases.
nuclear imaging techniques use radioactive materials to study cardiovascular disorders and diseases in a noninvasive way.