Heart Doctors and Surgeons

Heart doctors, surgeons and specialists overview

General cardiologist

  • Diagnoses and treats heart problems, as well as coordinates heart care.
  • Performs exams and procedures, including stress tests and angiograms.
  • Works with patients to manage, reduce or eliminate risk factors for heart disease.
  • Sees patients referred by a primary-care physician after heart disease risk factors have been identified.
  • Sees patients who self-refer for heart care.
  • Can prescribe heart medications.
  • Can make referrals to other heart physician specialists such as a cardiovascular radiologist, electrophysiologist, interventional cardiologist, cardiovascular or thoracic surgeon or robotic-assisted cardiac surgeon.
  • Can work hand-in-hand with other heart specialists during certain procedures.
  • Coordinates cardiac rehabilitation plans for patients post-surgery.

Cardiovascular radiologist

  • Specializes in the use of medical imaging technologies to diagnose heart and blood vessel disease.
  • Can use X-ray, angiogram, ultrasound, cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan, magnetic resonance angiography, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and nuclear heart scan, to screen and diagnose heart conditions, or monitor treatment progress.

Cardiac electrophysiologist

  • Specializes in the heart’s electrical signaling, which can be the source of arrhythmias where the heart beats too rapidly, slowly or erratically.
  • Performs an electrophysiology study to diagnose a patient’s abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Can perform minimally invasive heart procedures such as ablations or left atrial appendage occlusions to eliminate the source of arrhythmias or prevent the chance of blood clots.
  • Can implant small defibrillator devices that restore regular heart rhythms.
  • Can implant small pacemaker devices that help the heart beat normally.

Interventional cardiologist

  • Specializes in catheter-based procedures (known as interventional cardiology) to treat heart conditions, including coronary artery disease.
  • Expert in restoring healthy blood flow to clogged or blocked arteries, as well as repairing damaged or abnormal heart valves.
  • Can use stents, tiny inflatable balloons or even special blades to restore proper blood flow in arteries or remove plaque caused by cholesterol deposits.

Cardiovascular and cardiothoracic surgeons

  • Specialize in open, minimally invasive or catheter-based surgeries for the heart and blood vessels, including the aorta, the body’s main artery.
  • Can perform surgeries to repair or replace heart valves, implant new blood vessels to replace blocked vessels (coronary artery bypass graft surgery) and repair congenital defects.
  • Can perform surgeries to repair aneurysms.
  • Can perform surgeries to implant ventricular assist devices (VADs), including left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).

Robotic-assisted cardiothoracic surgeon

  • Specializes in minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgeries that do not require an “open” incision through the chest and separation of the patient’s sternum (breast bone).
  • Can perform surgeries to replace blocked vessels (coronary artery bypass graft surgery).
  • Can perform surgeries to repair adult congenital heart defects such as atrial septal defect, which is a hole between heart’s atria (top chambers).
  • Can perform surgeries to perform mitral valve repair or replacement.