With one in every four deaths, caused by heart disease, people are recommended to see a cardiologist every year. This number is steadily rising with the heart disease rate increasing and the need for specialized early care.
Cardiology is the specialty of medicine dealing with the heart and specialized circulatory pathologies by integrating acute and chronic medicine. This specialization deals with the rhythm of blood flow and fluid dynamics.
The rising heart disease cases worldwide and an aging population make cardiologists an integral part of the medical system. Cardiology’s uniqueness makes it more procedural than the regular medical specialty as it uses increasingly complex a interventional procedures.
With a high number of emergency room admissions being cardiac-related, cardiologists diagnose and treat conditions such as breathlessness, chest pain, loss of consciousness, heart attacks, hypertension, irregular heart rhythms, and high cholesterol.
Each cardiology subspecialty involves different procedures and technologies. Cardiology has a diverse range of treatments that can offer spectacular results that to improve an individual’s quality of life and longevity. Procedures such as stents, artificial valves, and pacemakers make cardiologists one of the vital physicians in the science of medicine.
Branches of cardiology
- Pediatric cardiology
This is the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac conditions in children. Pediatric cardiologists work hand in hand with pediatric heart surgeons on the best course of treatment of children from before birth to adulthood. A pediatric cardiologist will do three years of pediatrics and three years of pediatric fellowship rather than an internal medicine residency.
- Adult cardiology
As opposed to pediatric specialty, these cardiologists handle adults with all aspects of cardiac problems. Cardiologists in this field use advanced technologies to assess, diagnose and prevent any cardiovascular condition. These technologies and interventions can be invasive or non-invasive depending on the state of the patient.
- Interventional cardiology
Specialty in this area requires an additional one to two years in cardiovascular disease training catheter-based procedures such as balloon angioplasty and stenting. Some interventional cardiologists can also train t do structural heart disease intervention that includes minimally invasive techniques to close holes in the heart and even replace valves.
- Cardiothoracic surgeon
Technically this is not a branch of cardiology, this is a surgical specialty that requires surgical residency instead of a medicine residency. This branch of study requires a five-year general surgery residency followed by a two to three years cardiothoracic surgery fellowship. Doctors can also opt for an integrated six years cardiothoracic surgery residency from the beginning, which yields to the same qualifications.
Cardiology includes several invasive and non-invasive tests that help the doctor determine the patient’s heart’s status and how to treat it.
Non-invasive tests include ECGs, echocardiograms, stress tests, CTs, and MRIs, while invasive tests include coronary angiography, and cardiac catheterization.
Qualifications of a cardiologist
Being a cardiologist is highly competitive and requires several years of training and practice.. However, being a cardiologist is rewarding if the individual is sure they are willing to commit to the extensive and demanding training schedule.
To become a cardiologist, individuals must have a Bachelor’s degree in medicine, after completing four years in medical school or a health-related field. An additional two-year foundation program is also required.
Individuals must complete three years of internal medicine residency, which is the most common residency that most medicine graduates pursue. This period also entails securing letters of recommendations from leaders in the field, which will help acquire a fellowship later. It is recommended to participate in research, publish articles, and present in cardiac conferences to strengthen the fellowship application. After the internal medicine residency, an individual might choose to sub-specialize in cardiology by doing another three years of cardiology fellowship.
After these years of training, cardiologists can now be licensed physicians after passing certification exams that evaluate their skill set and training.
Cardiologists can work in hospitals, private practices, and universities. They are usually the primary consult in heart procedures and diagnostics.
How to choose the right cardiologist
When choosing the right cardiologist, it is best to conduct research and ask for friends or family referrals. Most renowned cardiologists are easily recommended, and going to one with high ratings is the best option.
If in the USA, it is also best to ensure that the cardiologist is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. A cardiologist with an elected professional designated will be a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, meaning that they have attained excellence in their field of practice. In other countries the certification process does differ.
Despite the professional qualifications, a good cardiologist should be able to listen to the patient. Good communication ensures the patient and doctor relationship is clear and concise, with the patient being given a chance to ask all the questions or concerns they might have.
It is essential to check with your insurance whether your cardiologist of choice is in your network of physicians before treatment.
Becoming a cardiologist involves continuing education and practice. The evolving medical field requires a physician who is always staying up to date with new technological and medical advancements.