Cardiologists are internal medicine physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the cardiovascular system. Cardiologists can also help patients who are in good health learn about the risk factors for and the prevention of heart disease. Although all cardiologists are clinical internists who medically manage their patients, they may also sub-specialize in several different areas, including:
- Adult clinical cardiology, which focuses on the diagnosis, medical management, and prevention of cardiovascular disease.
- Pediatric cardiology, which focuses on heart problems in children.
- Interventional cardiology, which focuses on interventional diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease (i.e., balloon angioplasty and stent placement).
- Advanced cardiac imaging, such as echocardiography, cardiac CT, and cardiac MRI, and nuclear medicine, which focus on diagnostic imaging of the heart and blood vessels.
- Electrophysiology, which focuses on the electrical conduction system of the heart.
A Team Approach
Cardiologists are the central part of the cardiovascular care team. With a complex health condition like heart disease, it is important to find the right match between patient and specialist. Cardiovascular disease is often first suspected and diagnosed by a primary care physician, who then refers the patient to a cardiologist. The cardiologist evaluates the symptoms and medical history and then recommends diagnostic testing. When necessary, the cardiologist then brings in other members of the cardiovascular care team, who work together to ensure the best outcome for each patient. Patients remain under the care of the cardiologist even when they are referred to other specialists.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, cardiologists spend four years in medical school and another four years training in internal medicine. To become cardiologists, these internists then spend another 2 to 5 years learning and training in the specialization. The amount of time in any cardiology fellowship is determined by the type of cardiology (invasive, pediatric, etc.) that the physician ultimately practices.
Texas Heart Institute www.texasheartinstitute.com/HIC/Topics/FAQ/wicardio.cfm