You and your cardiologist will be tackling some big issues, namely, the health of your heart. When you don't have a cardiologist and you need to find the right one, it's important to keep a few things in mind.
Where to Begin
First, let's answer the question "What is a cardiologist?" According to the
American College of Cardiology (ACC), "A cardiologist is a doctor with special training and skill in finding, treating and preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels."
When you need a cardiologist, most people are able to look to their primary care physician for a referral. Your primary doctor (internist or family medicine) knows you and should be able to recommend a cardiologist – or several – in your area.
Friends, family and co-workers are also good sources for recommendations. They'll give you a patient's perspective on finding a cardiologist that's a good fit for you.
Different Types of Cardiologists
When we think of the term cardiologist, we think heart doctor. But there's more to it than that. There are several types of cardiologists specializing in various aspects of heart care.
- A general or medical cardiologist treats a wide range of issues that affect the heart and blood vessels, and works with patients on prevention of heart disease (managing cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.). These doctors may specialize in diagnosing problems and the interpretation of diagnostic tests.
- An interventional cardiologist performs a variety of procedures including catheterization and angioplasty or placing stents to open narrow or blocked arteries.
- An electrophysiologist is like the electrician of the cardiac world, specializing in diagnosing and treating abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) like atrial fibrillation (AFib). They perform a minimally-invasive procedure called ablation to treat arrhythmia, and also implant cardiac devices like pacemakers and defibrillators.
- Cardiac or cardiothoracic surgeons specialize in procedures like bypass surgery, and valve repair and replacement. They work with other cardiologists to perform advanced procedures like the convergent procedure for AFib and TAVR (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement).
In addition to these broad categories, cardiologists may be certified in various subspecialties like heart failure or nuclear cardiology.
Check a physician's credentials and do some research. Doylestown Hospital provides an online physician directory that lists credentials and specialties. You can also check with your state's medical board.
Consider where cardiologists practice, namely the hospital where they work. You can check the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for more detailed information about the quality of a hospital's cardiac program.
Digging deeper, you may want to consider a cardiologist's experience. You can ask a heart doctor how many times they've performed a particular procedure or their experience with a certain technology. Usually the more experienced, the better the outcomes.
Communication and Comfort
When it comes to finding the right physician, it's important to feel comfortable with that individual. The cardiologist's communication style can help determine if he or she is 'the one'. You may be working with this doctor for years, so it's important to establish a relationship of trust.
You and your cardiologist should be partners in your care. Ask questions. Be sure you understand the answers. Think about the questions the doctor asks you. According to the ACC: "Remember, your cardiologist wants you to understand your illness and be an active participant in your own care."
Find a Cardiologist Near You
About Doylestown Health's Heart Institute
Expert cardiologists and cardiac surgeons assist patients and physicians with managing risk factors for heart disease, offer advanced treatment options and provide outstanding emergency cardiac care. The multidisciplinary team at the Heart Institute is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care and patient safety.
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