A cardiovascular specialist is a physician who specializes in issues with the heart and circulatory system, known collectively as the cardiovascular system. There are a number of different types of cardiovascular specialists, ranging from general cardiologists who deal with patients who have routine heart problems to pediatric cardiac surgeons, who perform heart surgery on young patients exclusively. The level of training involved in becoming a cardiovascular specialist varies, depending on which aspect of the field a doctor intends to work in.
When a patient goes to a regular physician with what appears to be a heart problem, the physician may opt to refer the patient to a cardiovascular specialist. The specialist has the advantage of additional tools and training in the field, along with information about the latest treatments, procedures, and research. Depending on the patient's condition, the specialist may decide to consult with another specialist or refer the patient to someone with a special area of knowledge.
Some cardiovascular specialists like to focus on the management of existing heart problems, while others prefer to work in diagnosis and treatment. Some can use surgical means to assist their patients, while others utilize medication which may be supplemented by a variety of medical tests which can be performed on the cardiovascular system to assess its health. Specialists can also focus on adult or child hearts, along with particular issues, such as transplants or artificial hearts.
A general cardiologist can use a variety of tools to diagnose and treat a heart problem, relying on the services of an invasive cardiologist for special tests on the heart. Cardiac and vascular surgeons can perform surgery on the heart and blood vessels, respectively, while pediatricians can choose to focus on cardiovascular issues in their training. Typically, cardiovascular specialists qualify as internists, surgeons, or pediatricians and then pursue additional certification in cardiovascular medicine, which can take two to six years longer.
In addition to working independently with a patient who has a problem with the heart or blood vessels, a cardiovascular specialist can also be part of a patient's care team. He or she may work with other surgeons and doctors to address a patient in systemic organ failure, or to help manage a patient who is being hospitalized to prevent the emergence of cardiovascular problems. Regular consultations with a cardiovascular specialist may also be art of a patient's treatment plan for a particular condition or chronic disease.