Cardiac electrophysiology is a subspecialty of cardiology. The physician looks at how electric currents inside the heart muscle tissue work, how the current spreads, and what the pattern of the currents mean.
Electrophysiology study (EPS) of the heart: in this test, a catheter is threaded into a vein at the top of the leg. Guided under fluoroscopy, it makes its way to the heart. The catheter measures the electrical signals within the heart.
An EPS of the heart can:
help to show what is causing symptoms
help decide if a patient needs a pacemaker
help decide the best treatment for patients with arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm
determine how likely a patient is to experience tachycardia or an accelerated heart beat
A cardiac electrophysiologist can provide treatment for abnormal rhythms including cardiac ablation, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or pacemakers.
A cardiologist will review a patient’s medical history and carry out a physical examination.
They may check the person’s weight, heart, lungs, blood pressure, and blood vessels, and carry out some tests.
An interventional cardiologist may carry out procedures such as angioplasties, stenting, valvuloplasties, congenital heart defect corrections, and coronary thrombectomies.
They may also carry out or order tests as listed below:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): this records the electrical activity of the heart.
Ambulatory ECG: this records heart rhythms while the person carries out exercise or their regular activities. Small metal electrodes are stuck on to the chest, and these are connected by wires to a Holter monitor, which records the rhythms.
An exercise test, or stress test: this shows the changes of heart rhythm when resting and exercising. It measures the performance and limitations of the heart.
Echocardiogram: this provides an ultrasound picture that shows the structure of the heart chambers and surrounding areas, and it can show how well the heart is working.
Echocardiography can measure how well the heart is pumping blood, known as cardiac output. It can detect inflammation around the heart, known as pericarditis. It can also identify structural abnormalities or infections of the heart valves.
Cardiac catheterization: a small tube in or near the heart collects data and may help relieve a blockage. It can take pictures and check the functioning of the heart and the electrical system. Catheter-based techniques with fluoroscopy can be used to treat congenital cardiac, valvular, and coronary artery diseases.
Nuclear cardiology: nuclear imaging techniques use radioactive materials to study cardiovascular disorders and diseases in a noninvasive way.
Examples are infarction imaging, single-photon-emission computed tomography (SPECT), planar imaging, and myocardial perfusion imaging.
If a person has symptoms of a heart condition, their physician may refer them to a cardiologist.
Symptoms that can indicate a heart problem include:
shortness of breath
changes in heart rate or rhythm
high blood pressure
A cardiologist can carry out tests for a heart murmur or an abnormal heart rhythm.
They often treat patients who have had a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problems. They help make decisions about heart surgery, heart catheterization, and angioplasty and stenting.
Heart diseases that a cardiologist can help with include:
congenital heart disease
coronary heart disease
congestive heart disease
high blood cholesterol and triglycerides
high blood pressure, or hypertension
The cardiologist can give advice about preventing heart disease.
A person may need to see a cardiologist even without symptoms, if they have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol, if they are or have been a smoker, if they have diabetes, or if they are starting a new exercise program.
A woman who has had pre-eclampsia may be at higher risk of heart problems in a later pregnancy or during the menopause.
Specialists in cardiology are called cardiologists. Some of the strategies used by cardiologists to combat cardiovascular diseases include coronary artery bypass surgery, percutaneous coronary intervention, percutaneous transluminal angioplasty and stenting. Cardiologists also may diagnose cardiovascular disorders using blood tests, cardiac stress tests, echocardiography or electrocardiography or computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging techniques.
The training required to become a cardiologist involves more than 10 years of studying internal medicine and specialized programs.
Becoming a cardiologist requires:
4 years of pre-medical study at an accredited college or university;
4 years of medical school, earning an MD;
3 years in an internal medicine residency program;
3 or more years in a fellowship program for advanced training; and
The basic functioning of the cardiovascular system includes the way the heart processes oxygen and nutrients in the blood, which is called coronary circulation. The circulation system consists of coronary arteries and coronary veins.
There are a range of disorders of the cardiovascular system that are treated and studied under the field of cardiology. Among them are acute coronary syndrome, which encompasses the broad range of myocardial infarction symptoms. Angina pectoris, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease and restenosis are other common disorders. Broader categories of disorders in the field of cardiology include cardiac arrest; disorders of the myocardium, or the muscle of the heart, which include varieties of cardiomyopathy; disorders of the pericardium, or the outer lining of the heart, which include types of pericarditis; disorders of the heart valves, including the aortic valve, the mitral valve, the pulmonary valve and the tricuspid valve; congenital heart defects, which range from atrial septal defect to ventricular septal defect; diseases of the blood vessels, or vascular diseases, which includes aneurysm, deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins, vasculitis and diseases of other blood vessels.
Several devices are used in cardiology, including various types of balloons and defibrillators, a pacemaker, and a stethoscope. Artificial hearts also are used and studied in the field of cardiology.
Cardiology is a medical specialty and a branch of internal medicine concerned with disorders of the heart. It deals with the diagnosis and treatment of such conditions as congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease, electrophysiology, heart failure and valvular heart disease. Subspecialties of the cardiology field include cardiac electrophysiology, echocardiography, interventional cardiology and nuclear cardiology.