A cardiologist practices in a branch of internal medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the heart and circulatory system, including those that stem from birth abnormalities, diseases, or advancing age. Cardiologists take care of a variety of heart conditions, such as rheumatic heart disease in children and congestive heart failure and heart attack in adults.
Cardiology and cardiovascular surgery complement each other. Over the years, doctors in these fields have worked closely together in the treatment of heart diseases. For example, the cardiologist may determine that a child has been born with a hole between the chambers of the heart; the cardiovascular surgeon is the one who will repair this hole through open heart surgery.
A cardiologist must be acquainted not only with anatomy and physiology but also with modern computerized diagnostic equipment. One special diagnostic procedure performed by cardiologists is cardiac catheterization, in which a catheter (a long, thin, flexible tube) is inserted into the heart and adjacent blood vessels, allowing the injection of a special dye that affords a view of those structures. Angioplasty (the opening of a blocked artery by insertion of a balloon-tipped catheter) is a treatment procedure that is commonly performed by cardiologists.
Training in cardiology includes completion of a residency in internal medicine and at least two years of specialized training in cardiology.
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