What kinds of doctors might I need if I have heart problems?

You may need care from all or from a combination of the following doctors:

  • primary care doctor
  • cardiologist
  • electrophysiologist
  • invasive cardiologist
  • cardiothoracic or cardiovascular surgeon

Primary care doctor. You will see your primary care doctor for most of your health concerns. Your doctor has two main roles:

  • creating your treatment plan
  • overseeing your treatment

To do those things, your doctor will refer you to the specialists you need. Your doctor will also coordinate with the other doctors and specialists you see. Your doctor may want to consult or have you work with a heart specialist called a cardiologist. Your doctor may also refer you to a dietitian for help in changing your diet. If you need surgery or a heart procedure, your doctor can recommend a surgeon.

Cardiologist. This doctor specializes in diseases of the heart. Cardiologists can order tests, such as exercise stress tests and echocardiograms. They or their staff can do these tests in the hospital or in their office. They may then recommend medicines or other treatments, depending on the results of your tests.

Electrophysiologist. This is a cardiologist with special training. This doctor treats arrhythmias in patients referred by other cardiologists. He or she can perform tests and provide treatment to help correct your heart's rhythm.

Invasive cardiologist. This is a doctor who can perform all of the tests a regular cardiologist can. He or she can also perform invasive procedures. These would include such procedures as cardiac catheterization and angioplasty. These can be used both to diagnose and to treat heart disease.

Cardiothoracic or cardiovascular surgeon. This is a surgeon who specializes in surgeries of the heart, chest, and blood vessels, including coronary bypass surgery.

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