Cardiology is the subspecialty of internal medicine concerned with the functioning of the heart, blood vessels and circulation of blood throughout the body. It may also encompass evaluation of the lungs.
Cardiologists must first complete seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training and become board certified in Internal Medicine. Then, for an additional three to five years, they study conditions specific to the heart, blood vessels and blood circulation.
Cardiologists prevent, diagnose and treat conditions of the heart, blood vessels and circulation system in adult patients. But as broadly trained internists, they may also perform a general physical check-up. If a condition is found that falls within cardiology, they will handle the treatment. If it requires the services of another physician, they will refer you appropriately. As a rule, blood counts, urinalyses and X-ray tests will be conducted on most patients undergoing a complete examination in a cardiologist's office.
When you need a cardiologist
Frequently, a cardiologist is called in cases of chest pain or discomfort in which the diagnosis is unclear or where specialized medical care is needed. Not everyone who suffers from some difficulty in breathing or pain in the chest needs a cardiologist. Many patients may be handled quite effectively by an internist. A cardiologist's skills are most necessary in comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of the heart and circulatory system.
How cardiologists work with other physicians
In many cases, patients with cardiovascular disease are followed jointly by a general internist and a cardiologist. This joint care works best for all concerned. The cardiologist can add new therapies and feel confident of the follow-up care from a fellow internist.
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