A general cardiologist treats a wide range of problems that affect the heart and blood vessels. Cardiologists receive extensive education, including four years of medical school and three years of training in general internal medicine. After this, a cardiologist spends three or more years in specialized training.
When someone is dealing with a medical issue that involves the heart, a general cardiologist is typically the initial type of physician that is recommended. If the heart issue requires specialized treatment, our cardiologists will collaborate and add a specialized type of cardiologist depending on the patient’s diagnosis or treatment needs.
An interventional cardiologist performs ‘invasive’, non-surgical procedures needed by heart patients. This usually involves placing a small catheter into an artery either in the wrist or upper leg in order to access the heart or blood vessel. Interventional cardiologists treat patients who have coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, and peripheral vascular disease. Types of procedures performed include cardiac catheterization with angioplasty and stenting (inserting a balloon into the artery to increase blood flow, and implanting a mesh support in the artery to keep it open), peripheral artery angioplasty and stenting, carotid artery stenting, embolic protection (using filters to catch loose pieces of arterial plaque), and now mitral valve repair and aortic valve replacement.
An electrophysiologist has extensive training in diagnosing and treating abnormal heart rhythms or heart rhythm disorders. These specialists focus on your heart's timing, or electrical, system and on diagnosing and treating irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias. They can monitor the heart’s rhythm with home monitoring devices or even tiny implanted devices to monitor rhythm long-term. Electrophysiologists perform diagnostic catheter based tests to precisely locate the origin of abnormal heart rhythms, and can use radio waves or ultra-cold (cryo-balloon) catheters to ‘ablate’ areas in the heart causing these abnormal rhythms. They also implant pacemakers and Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators.
When necessary, Virginia Heart physicians works closely with cardiac and vascular surgeons, often working side-by-side in the operating room to perform life-saving procedures for our patients who need open-heart surgery to repair or treat complex heart conditions.