A doctor who specializes in issues of the heart is called a cardiologist. According to the American College of Cardiology, cardiologists are trained to find, treat and help prevent diseases that attack the blood vessels and the heart. Under the term cardiologist, there are a few types, each specializing in a different area of heart treatment. However, there are other doctors who specialize in heart issues, such as cardiac surgeons, who are not listed as cardiologists.
A cardiologist treats a wide range of problems that affect the heart and blood vessels. When someone is dealing with a medical issue that involves the heart, a cardiologist is generally the first stop. If the heart issue requires specialized treatment, the cardiologist will refer the patient on to a type of cardiologist who specializes in the necessary procedure.
An interventional cardiologist performs non-invasive procedures needed by heart patients. According to Brigham and Women's Medical Hospital, part of Harvard Medical School, interventional cardiologists treat patients who are dealing with coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, and peripheral vascular disease. The ICs perform procedures such as angioplasty and stenting (inserting a balloon into the artery to increase blood flow, and implanting a mesh balloon in the artery to keep it open), carotid artery stenting, embolic protection (using filters to catch loose pieces of arterial plaque), atherectomy (small blades cut plaque off arterial walls), and mitral valve repair.
An electrophysiologist has extended training in issues that involve diagnosing and treating abnormal heart rhythms. They determine if the patient is at risk for sudden cardiac arrest by performing tests such as an electrophysiology study, in which they send signals to the heart muscle to see if the patient will develop ventricular tachycardia, or a rapid heart beat. Another test they perform is an electrocardiogram, done in the hospital or by sending the patient home with a halter monitor. The Heart Rhythm Foundation reports that the field of electrophysiology is the fastest growing specialty in cardiology.
A pediatric cardiologist specializes in heart health care for infants and children. When an infant or child exhibits, or is suspected of, a heart abnormality, the specialty of a pediatric cardiologist is sought out. She makes a determination as to what type of cardiac testing should be done on the patient, as well as the cardiac procedures that may be ordered. According to the American College of Cardiology, some cardiologists maintain the doctor/patient relationship until the patient is 18.
Cardiac and Vascular Surgeons
The cardiac surgeon is a cardiologist that performs highly invasive cardiac procedures. These include heart by-pass surgeries and other types of open-heart surgery. The vascular surgeon performs procedures on blood vessels that are related to the heart, but outside of the heart. Rochester General Hospital states that the procedures that most often require a vascular surgeon involve atherosclerosis, in which the arterial walls become thick due to plaque build up, and thrombophlebitis, which is the swelling of the veins from blood clots. Both cardiac and vascular surgeons work closely with cardiologists in treating conditions that affect the heart.