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What is a Cardiovascular Specialist?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By andee — On Jul 23, 2011

My sister is a nurse at Mercy Hospital and when our father had to have open heart surgery, it was comforting to know that he was in good hands.

My sister works on the Cardiology floor at the hospital and knew the doctors and staff. We knew he was getting very good care. I am thankful for the doctors who specialize in heart problems and for all the knowledge and expertise they have in this area.

By John57 — On Jul 22, 2011

One of my friends adopted a boy who had a congenital heart problem and they knew he would have heart surgery before he was 5 years old.

They had many visits with cardiologists and a cardiovascular surgeon before they performed his surgery just before his 5th birthday.

Even though they knew this had to be done, it was still a scary time for all of them. They felt confident in their doctors and surgeon though, and he came through the surgery just fine. He continues to do well and will proudly show you his scar if you ask to see it!

By bagley79 — On Jul 21, 2011

When my husband was having his annual physical done for his job, the doctor discovered that he had a heart murmur. He would not pass him for his physical until he saw a cardiologist and got it checked out.

He made an appointment with a heart doctor, but did not have to see any advanced cardiovascular specialists for this problem. The cardiologist ran some tests, and told him it was just something they would continue to watch and did not place him on any restrictions.

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 20, 2011

@KaBoom - I'm glad it turned out to be nothing. Like you, I tend to err on the side of caution so I'd rather go in and have it be nothing than delay and have it be a real problem.

I just wanted to say that if anyone is interested in this field and doesn't want to become a doctor, there are other jobs you can do. A friend of mine works as a cardiovascular technician. He performs EKGs and assists the doctor with other tests and procedures. A lot of community colleges have programs for cardiovascular technicians that take much, much less time than medical school!

By KaBoom — On Jul 20, 2011

My mom went to see a cardiovascular specialist about a year ago. She was having some symptoms like racing heart and shortness of breath, so her regular doctor referred her.

When she went to the specialist, they did a ton of tests. They did stress tests, blood pressure tests, and they even gave her this monitoring thing to wear around for a few days. Luckily it turned out to just be stress, but I'm glad she went and got it check out.

By Saraq90 — On Jul 20, 2011

@speechie - There are places that specialize in cardiovascular issues. Often they may not be a separate building but rather within a larger medical facility.

Often times these places are called cardiovascular institutes, and you will find cardiovascular specialists work there, and just as you describe the doctors as being specialists you will find the nursing jobs here can be occupied by cardiovascular nurses who also have taken special courses to designate them as cardio nurses.

By Speechie — On Jul 19, 2011

Specialists are very important, as are our general physicians!

There is so much detail to learn about the body and conditions affecting the body that it is important to have both your general physician to lead you in the right direction if it is a serious problem to narrow down what type of specialist you should see as well as important to have that specialist.

For example if you had cancer you would not seek treatment from your general physician, but your general physician might be able to tell from your symptoms that they need to refer you to a cancer specialist or oncologist.

I am curious as to if, just like how cancer treatment places can be just that - specific to cancer; if there are places specific to just cardiovascular issues?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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