Table of Contents
As a cardiologist in Singapore, I work in a team with other heart health experts that specialize in different aspects of heart care and disease management. There are many different types of cardiologists and all share their expertise in order to manage a patient’s condition and ensure the best possible outcome. In this article, we will be meeting the different types of heart doctors and learn what role they play in heart care and treatment.
The Role of a Cardiologist
A cardiologist is a medical doctor who has expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of different diseases and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Their training encompasses the use of a variety of diagnostic tests and procedures aimed at evaluating the health of the cardiovascular system, including the heart, arteries, and veins. They also specialize in the use of medical treatments like medications and changes in lifestyle to manage and treat certain cardiovascular conditions.
You will find this type of heart doctor in different settings such as in hospitals, clinics, and private practices. All cardiologists have training in most heart problems, however, they will also have a sub-specialty, which is an area where they get extra training. The main different types of cardiologists are listed below.
Electrophysiologists deal with heart rhythm problems. This can be as simple as prescribing medications or more complex procedures like catheter ablation, or implantation of a pacemaker or defibrillator. Cardiac electrophysiologists are the type of cardiologist that plays a crucial role in the care of patients who suffer from arrhythmia.
Heart Failure Specialist
A heart failure specialist is a heart doctor who has expertise and training in the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure. Heart failure is a condition where the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s requirements. Heart failure can be caused by high blood pressure, heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), and coronary artery disease.
An interventional cardiologist uses minimally invasive techniques in order to diagnose or treat the heart condition that you might have. Interventional cardiologists will use specialized equipment and tools like catheters and stents in order to access the heart through blood vessels. They will then perform procedures like angioplasty, valve repair, and stent replacement when needed.
A preventative cardiologist is among the types of heart doctors who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of varied cardiovascular diseases. 80% of heart attacks and strokes are preventable if you treat risk factors early!
These cardiologists are focused on helping individuals maintain and improve heart health using multiple strategies which include lifestyle changes, identification and management of risk factors, medication, procedures, and preventive screenings.
A preventative cardiologist may perform:
- Evaluate and identify risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes
- Prescribe medications or recommend lifestyle changes to manage any risk factors
- Provide guidance and educate patients on how they can adopt a healthy change in their lifestyles, such as diet recommendations, stress management, and exercise
- Perform screenings like electrocardiograms (ECGs), cholesterol tests, blood pressure monitoring, and others in order to detect early signs of cardiovascular disease
- Collaborate with primary care physicians, dietitians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to help provide the best care and support to patients.
- Participate in research that seeks to identify new techniques of prevention and treatment of any cardiovascular disease.
Another type of cardiologist is one that specializes in diagnosing and treating heart conditions in children. They are called pediatric cardiologists and they are trained in the unique physiology and development of a child’s heart. They also have expertise in identifying and treating heart conditions you are born with “congenital”.
An imaging cardiologist is among the types of heart doctors who specialize in the use of medical imaging technologies, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear imaging, and echocardiography for diagnosing and treating different cardiovascular conditions. They would closely work with cardiologists and other healthcare professionals to evaluate the heart’s overall health along with the blood vessels and develop treatment plans for patients.
Some of the tasks that an imaging cardiologist would perform include the following:
- Perform and interpret echocardiograms. A test that uses sound waves to visualize the heart and its structures
- Use techniques in nuclear imaging like positron emission tomography (PET) single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) for the evaluation of blood flow toward the heart and detect any abnormalities
- Use computed tomography (CT) scans for assessing the heart’s function and structure including the blood vessels
- Use MRI to produce detailed images of the heart along with its surrounding structures including the aorta and other great vessels
- Collaborate with other medical care professionals for the development of treatment plans based on the results revealed by the imaging studies.
- Provide education and guidance to patients on how to properly use and interpret the results of imaging tests.
The Role of a Cardiac Surgeon
Contrary to common belief, a cardiac surgeon is not a cardiologist! Cardiac surgeons specialize in surgical procedures that involve the heart and blood vessels. They work closely with cardiologists and other healthcare professionals to investigate, diagnose, and treat different cardiovascular conditions.
This may include congenital heart defects, heart valve problems, coronary artery disease, and aneurysms, among others.
Here are some tasks that a cardiac surgeon may be responsible for:
- Repairing or replacing damaged heart valves through surgery
- Improving blood flow to the heart by way of bypassing blocked or narrowed coronary arteries
- Repair and reconstruction of any damaged or malformed blood vessels
- Removal of tumors or any type of abnormalities from the heart or blood vessels
- Perform emergency surgery such as heart transplant surgery or coronary artery bypass surgery in situations that are life-threatening
Cardiologists will refer to cardiac surgeons if they deem it medically necessary.
The Importance of Choosing The Right Heart Doctor for Your Needs
It is important that you know the different types of heart doctors and choose the right one to take care of your unique needs as it ensures that you receive the best, personalized care for your cardiovascular condition.
Choosing a heart doctor who has the right expertise in treating your specific heart health condition can guide you to the right treatment options available and educate you on how to properly manage your condition.
The best heart doctors will also work with you in developing a plan for optimum health and well-being.
The most important factor to consider is the level of comfort that the doctor provides during appointments and whether or not they are able to meet your needs.
At the Harley Street Heart and Vascular Centre, we have recommended heart doctors who are seasoned and trained to perform best and treat patients in the best way possible.
How to Find a Reputable and Experienced Heart Doctor in Your Area
It isn’t too hard to find a reputable and experienced heart doctor in your area. Here are a few steps that you can follow to find one:
- Ask for any recommendation from your primary care doctor
- Check with your insurance provider and look for in-network doctors who specialize in heart health.
- Check online resources. There are several directories and websites that explain the different types of heart doctors and list the best ones in different areas. Most of these sites would include information about a doctor’s education, training, and expertise.
- Consider the credentials and experience of your doctor of choice. Pick one that is board certified in cardiology and has been able to complete additional training in a certain area of heart care. This can be in electrophysiology or interventional cardiology.
- Read patient reviews online and look for a specialist who has the best bedside manner and quality of care. Although most reviews would not tell every detail about a doctor, it is still a good resource to start with.
- Ask about the doctor’s approach to treatment and make sure that is aligned with your values and expectations. Ask whether the doctor is open to other alternative treatment options and what his overall treatment philosophy is.
The most important thing is that you find a doctor whom you feel comfortable talking with and one that you really trust. If you need specialized heart care or want to go for a consultation, consider giving us a call at +65 6235 5300 or send us an email today!
Written by: Dr Michael MacDonald MB ChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP (UK), MD (Research), FESC (Europe). Dr MacDonald was trained in the UK and is a senior Consultant Cardiologist.