Medical Specialists of the Cardiovascular System

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  • 0:00 Cardiovascular Specialists
  • 0:30 The Cardiologist
  • 3:04 The Hematologist
  • 5:17 The Vascular Surgeon
  • 7:18 Determining the Right Doctor
  • 7:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Betsy Chesnutt

Betsy teaches college physics, biology, and engineering and has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Heart, blood, and blood vessel disorders are treated by specialists known as cardiologists, hematologists, and vascular surgeons. In this lesson, we'll learn exactly what each of these medical specialists do and the types of conditions that they treat.

Cardiovascular Specialists

Patient: Hello! I have been having some medical problems, and I hope you can help me. I know I need to see a doctor who treats cardiovascular system disorders, but I learned that there are three different types of cardiovascular doctors: cardiologists, hematologists, and vascular surgeons. I'm not sure exactly which one could help me, so could you come with me to interview these different types of medical specialists that diagnose and treat disorders of the cardiovascular system? Thanks!

The Cardiologist

Patient: Let's go see a cardiologist first and find out what he can do!

Cardiologist Carl: Hello! I'm Cardiologist Carl. Welcome to my office.

Patient: Hi, Cardiologist Carl. I'm trying to learn more about what cardiologists do. Can you tell me what you do and what kinds of patients that you treat?

Carl: Certainly! I am a cardiologist, which means that I treat disorders and diseases of the heart. In Greek, 'cardia' means heart and 'logia' means study, so cardiology is the study of the heart. I diagnose and treat patients with coronary artery disease, heart valve defects and diseases, heart failure, and problems with the electrical functioning of the heart - a branch of cardiology called electrophysiology.

Patient: That sounds interesting! Do you treat both children and adults?

Carl: I only treat adults. Other cardiologists, called pediatric cardiologists, treat children and babies with heart disorders. The disorders that babies and children commonly suffer from are different from those of adults, so in most cases, a cardiologist specializes in treating either children or adults.

Patient: So, how did you become a cardiologist? Did you receive some special training that other doctors did not get?

Carl: It takes a long time and a lot of special training to become a cardiologist! First, I had to graduate from medical school. Then, I completed a three-year residency in internal medicine and another three-year residency in adult cardiology. Pediatric cardiologists follow a similar process, but they have to complete residencies in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology.

Patient: Wow! That's a lot of training! I bet you can really do a lot. What kinds of treatments do you commonly perform?

Carl: I often use techniques like ultrasound to visualize the heart and use electrodes to measure the electrical activity of the heart in a procedure known as an electrocardiogram, or ECG. Sometimes, I have to perform surgery to open or bypass blocked coronary arteries, repair and replaced damaged heart valves, and implant pacemakers to regulate the heartbeat rhythm.

Patient: Thank you for this information, Cardiologist Carl! Let me make sure I have it correct. Cardiologists like you treat disorders and diseases of the heart, and there are two types of cardiologists, adult and pediatric, that treat patients of different ages. You diagnose patients using techniques like ultrasound and ECG and then surgically treat blocked blood vessels, heart valves, or heart rhythm problems. Is this right?

Carl: That's right! If I can help you with any heart problems you may be having, just let me know. That's my job!

The Hematologist

Patient: Let's go visit a different type of doctor next, a hematologist.

Heema: Hello! Welcome to my office. I am Heema, the hematologist. What can I help you with today?

Patient: I want to learn about what you do as a hematologist. What kinds of disorders and diseases do you commonly treat?

Heema: Well, as a hematologist, I study, diagnose, and treat diseases of the blood. This includes diseases that affect the bone marrow, since that's where blood cells are made.

Patient: What are some examples of diseases that affect the blood or bone marrow?

Heema: I can diagnose and treat any disorder of the blood, including problems with blood cells, proteins found in the blood, and blood vessels. I often treat patients with anemia or blood clotting disorders, which means that their blood clots either too quickly or too slowly. As a hematologist, I can also be part of a team of doctors treating patients with cancers of the bone marrow and blood, like leukemia and lymphoma. These are cancers that cause your body to make too many immature white blood cells. A hematologist is able to diagnose this right away by looking at a sample of your blood under a microscope.

Patient: Do you deal with disorders of the heart, too, like a cardiologist?

Heema: Not usually, although some diseases might be treated by a hematologist and cardiologist working together. For example, some conditions make your blood more likely to clot. This can increase your risk of having heart attacks and strokes if the blood clot happens inside a blood vessel. This type of disorder would probably be treated by both types of doctors.

Patient: Oh, okay, that makes sense. How did you become a hematologist? Did you go to school for a long time?

Heema: Yes! I went to medical school for four years, and then completed a three-year residency in internal medicine and a three-year fellowship in hematology.

Patient: That is a long time! Before I go, let me make sure I understand what you've told me. Hematologists study all types of diseases of the blood, including diseases affecting the cells in the blood and the bone marrow. Hematologists treat patients with blood clotting disorders, anemia, and blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. Is that all correct?

Heema: Sure is! Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if I can help you. Bye!

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