Cardiology investigates, diagnoses, monitors, and treats diseases of your heart and blood vessels.

What is cardiology?

Cardiology is the care of patients who have heart and blood vessel symptoms and disorders. It involves the study and treatment of your heart and blood vessels, known as your cardiovascular system. It is a branch of internal medicine performed by a cardiologist.

What does cardiology involve?

Cardiology involves investigating, diagnosing and monitoring heart condition symptoms and providing appropriate cardiovascular treatment to help manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of further problems. Cardiology also includes cardiovascular screening and giving advice on preventing heart disease.

Initially your cardiologist reviews your medical history and discusses your symptoms. As many heart condition symptoms are non-specific to cardiovascular disorders, your cardiologist may use a number of diagnostic tests. The results of these tests are used to exclude or accurately diagnose the causes of heart disease, and to help make decisions about treatment for patients with cardiovascular diseases.

A cardiologist treats heart attacks, coronary heart disease, heart failure, heart rhythms, and valve problems. They offer lifestyle advice and recommendations and may perform treatments including heart medicines, heart catheterisation, coronary angioplasty also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), stenting, and inserting a pacemaker. Heart surgery is performed by a heart surgeon.

When should you see a cardiologist?

You will be recommended seeing a cardiologist if you have heightened risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • high cholesterol – can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases.
  • high blood pressure – known as hypertension, can increase your risk of a heart attack and stroke.
  • diabetes - can cause damage to your blood vessels and may lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
  • obesity - can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia.
  • family history of heart disease - heart and circulatory diseases can run in families.
  • ethnicity - can increase your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. South Asian, African, or African Caribbean ethnicity in the UK can increase your risk of developing some heart and circulatory diseases compared to white Europeans.
  • smoking - a huge risk factor for heart disease. Smoking lowers the flow of oxygen to your heart and increases blood pressure, heart rate, and blood clotting as well as damages the cells lining your arteries.
  • physical inactivity – your heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle it needs physical activity to help it work properly.

If you have symptoms of a heart condition, you may be referred to a cardiologist. These symptoms are often generic for a number of other conditions. They include:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain and tightness
  • sweating, nausea, dizziness or fainting
  • swollen feet and legs
  • pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms
  • changes in your heart rate or rhythm including pounding, fluttering or irregularity
  • weakness or fatigue
  • high blood pressure

You will need cardiology care if you have a cardiac event, such as a heart attack. You may then require ongoing cardiology monitoring once the emergency passes.

You may also choose to see a cardiologist for cardiovascular screening to help assess your risk of cardiovascular disease, detect a heart condition at its earliest and most treatable stage, and to gain preventative advice for heart disease. A range of tests are used to assess the health and functionality of different areas of your heart.

What are the common cardiology tests available?

The common cardiology tests available to help identify heart conditions include:

  • Cardiac blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) - to monitor your heart's electrical activity and help detect irregularities in the rhythm and structure of your heart. It can be carried out when you are resting.
  • Stress ECG– this is an ECG performed when you are exercising to check how your heart responds during exercise or stress.
  • Holter monitor – a portable device that records a continuous ECG, usually for 24 to 72 hours, to monitor your heart beat rhythm. It can detect heart rhythm irregularities that are not picked up from a regular ECG.
  • Echocardiogram– a chest ultrasound used to view detailed images of your heart’s structure and function in real-time providing detailed scans of your heart’s muscle, chambers and valves.
  • Cardiac catheterisation – a long, hollow, flexible tube is inserted under X-ray guidance through an artery to your heart to measure the pressure in your heart chambers. Dye that can be seen on an X-ray is often injected to view blood flow through your heart, blood vessels and valves, to check for any abnormalities. Cardiac catheterisation can both diagnose and treat heart and blood vessel conditions.
  • CT coronary angiography (cardiac CT scan)- the most common type of cardiac catheterisation is a coronary angiogram. CT coronary angioplasty uses a contrast injection and CT scanning to examine the arteries that supply blood to your heart to determine whether they have been narrowed.
  • Cardiac MRI scan - magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field to produce images of your heart.
  • Trans-oesophageal echocardiography - a test that uses ultrasound to produce detailed pictures of your heart and the arteries that lead to and from it. Unlike a standard echocardiogram, the echo transducer that produces the sound waves for TOE is attached to a thin tube that passes through your mouth, down your throat and into your oesophagus.

What are the treatments for cardiology?

  • Pacemaker implantation - a small electrical device that sends electrical pulses to your heart to keep it beating regularly and not too slowly. This is one of the most common types of heart surgery carried out in the UK, it is a relatively straightforward procedure that's usually performed under local anesthetic and takes about an hour.
  • Loop recorder implantation -  a small cardiac recording device that is placed under the skin on the chest to continuously monitor your heart rate and rhythm. It’s inserted under the skin just below the collarbone.
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy - Cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT) is used to improve your heart’s rhythm and muscle coordination between the left and right ventricles so that they contract simultaneously and improves the overall function of your heart. It’s used in patients with poor ventricular function, for example patients with heart failure or patients with arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythms). The small device is usually implanted with a local anaesthetic just under your collarbone.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator implantation - a small device that is placed in your chest to reduce your risk of sudden death if the lower chambers of your heart assume a dangerous rhythm and stop beating effectively, known as cardiac arrest.
  • Coronary angioplasty (PCI) -  is also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). The aim of this procedure is open narrowings in arteries that can cause chest pains or heart attacks. This allows blood to flow more freely and supply the heart muscle with enough oxygen. Usually, it is combined with the insertion of a Stent which is a small stainless steel mesh tube which keeps the artery open and prevents re-narrowing from occurring

Find out more detail about the treatments here.

Cardiology at Duchy Hospital

Here at Duchy we have a state of the art, purpose built cardiac catheter laboratory facility to offer our patients world class cardiac facilities including three laminar flow theatres and a dedicated short stay unit.

Our highly qualified Cardiologists and support staff come together to offer patients the very best of care for the diagnosis, assessment and treatment of a wide range of heart conditions without having to wait. We believe in continuity of care for all of our cardiac patients. Direct care is offered under the same consultant from your very first appointment through to follow-up pleased to offer a comprehensive cardiology service for our patients.

Whether you need a heart health check, a diagnosis of heart condition symptoms, high blood pressure management or treatment for a heart condition, you can be assured that you will receive the very best of care and advice. We perform cardiovascular screening to assess your cardiovascular risk, heart age and recommend heart disease prevention strategies.

With Duchy Hospital your symptoms will be assessed and a diagnosis provided rapidly, to allow an individual treatment plan to be developed to optimally manage your heart condition.

We offer patients convenient appointments including early mornings, evenings and Saturdays. Our private patients will see a consultant cardiologist within 72 hours. Contact us today to find out more or arrange an appointment.

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