Definition & Overview
Cardiology, also known as cardiovascular medicine and a subspecialty of internal medicine, is a medical field that focuses primarily on the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases and disorders that affect the heart. Doctors that specialize in this particular field are known as cardiologists.
For patients with heart problems, the initial cardiology consultation and subsequent consultations are essential parts of a medical treatment process. Not only do consultations play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of a heart condition, they are also crucial in educating the patient on lifestyle changes required to prevent the condition from worsening or to hasten the recovery process. Lifestyle changes typically include eating the right diet, avoiding certain activities, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Cardiology consultations also aid in the early detection of health conditions that would likely lead to heart problems. Not every patient who schedules a consultation actually has a heart condition; some consult a cardiologist as a preventive measure. As we age, the more prone we become to cardiovascular diseases. By undergoing periodic cardiology consultations, the heart can be monitored for any changes that may endanger a person’s health.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Ideally, everybody should undergo a periodic cardiology consultation primarily because early heart conditions typically do not display obvious symptoms. An example is stage B congestive heart failure (CHF). As this condition is asymptomatic, the patient may not know about his condition unless he undergoes routine cardiac diagnostic tests. If timely medical intervention is not sought, the condition will likely progress, wherein the patient begins to display symptoms, such as breathing difficulty and fatigue.
Many cardiovascular diseases can be prevented. It’s possible to know if you’re at risk of developing the condition simply by consulting a cardiologist and undergoing a few tests. Those whose condition has already progressed, definitely need to undergo a cardiology consultation so that treatment can begin immediately.
The results of a cardiology consultation vary from person to person. Some people may find out that they require immediate treatment, while others may have a healthy heart and only need to continue living a healthy lifestyle.
How Does the Procedure Work?
The procedures of a cardiology consultation may vary, but will typically include an interview, physical examination, as well as other examinations as required, and a diagnosis of the patient’s condition. However, preparation for the consultation is also an important step. To maximize the benefits that this procedure can offer, patients are encouraged to:
- Prepare a list of any medications being taken
- Bring results of other medical exams and tests
- Prepare a list of questions to ask the cardiologist
- Create a complete list of symptoms including their severity and when they started to show
During the consultation, the patient’s blood pressure, weight, and height measurements will be taken. An echocardiogram (ECG) or echocardiograph (ECHO) may also be performed.
The consultation will begin with a short interview with the cardiologist. This is followed by the interpretation of the ECG or ECHO results. With this information, the cardiologist may already provide an initial or final diagnosis. However, if more information is required, the patient will undergo more tests and the schedule of these tests, as well as the follow-up consultation, will be provided. Additional tests can include blood tests, x-rays, or stress tests.
Once the cardiologist has all the information, the patient will be informed of the diagnosis and treatment options, which can include the following:
- Lifestyle changes, which may include smoking cessation, eating a healthy diet, and being physically active
- Medications, which may include those that lower LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and other risk factors
- Certain procedures such as angioplasty and coronary artery bypass grafting
- Cardiac rehabilitation
Possible Risks and Complications
A cardiology consultation does not normally include treatment just yet, so it’s unlikely that you’ll undergo any procedures that have risks or possible complications. However, you may need to undergo tests, such as an x-ray, which is typically safe for any age, except for pregnant women.
- American Heart Association