A cardiologist is a doctor who has had extra training to treat problems of the heart and blood vessels. A cardiologist has at least 10 years of medical training. This includes 4 years of medical school, 3 years of training in internal medicine, and 3 or more years in other special training, specifically in cardiology and its related or subspecialty fields. He or she must then pass a test from the American Board of Internal Medicine in cardiology to be a board-certified cardiologist.
When would I see a cardiologist?
This kind of doctor is not a person’s primary healthcare provider. Cardiologists only work with people who need special heart-related care, or have had heart-related conditions in the past. Other doctors may consult with them with questions about heart disease or other conditions. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a cardiologist if you have symptoms of heart or blood vessel problems. These may include shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, chest pain, and fluttering feelings in your chest.
What does a cardiologist do?
A cardiologist diagnoses and treats diseases of the heart and blood vessels. These include:
Cardiologists work in hospitals and in private practices. If you see a cardiologist, he or she may:
Give you a physical exam
Order special tests, such as an ECG, blood test, or exercise test, exercise stress test, or echocardiogram
Interpret the results of tests to diagnose a health condition you may have
Prescribe treatment, such as medicine
Advise lifestyle changes, such as changes in your diet, weight, stress, and physical activity
Counsel you on risks and prevention
Do some procedures, such as cardiac catheterization or implant a pacemaker
Refer you to a cardiac surgeon or an interventional cardiologist if you need an invasive procedure
Some cardiologists also teach in universities and do research. They may help to develop new treatments for heart problems.
Special types of cardiologist
A cardiologist will often focus his or her care on one type of patient. An adult cardiologist sees only adult patients. A pediatric cardiologist sees only infant, child, or teen patients. Pediatric cardiologists are certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.
A cardiologist may get extra training in a special area of heart care. The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) certifies doctors in the specialty of cardiovascular disease. This focuses on caring for patients with diseases of the heart and blood vessels. These include heart attack, valve disease, high blood pressure, and some arrhythmias.
Doctors who are certified in cardiovascular disease by ABIM can also be certified in a subspecialty. These include:
Advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology. This focuses on caring for patients who have heart failure and may need a heart transplant.
Clinical cardiac electrophysiology. This focuses on testing and treating the heart for rhythm problems.
Interventional cardiology. This focuses on putting catheters in blood vessels to find and treat problems in the vessels and the heart.