Nuclear cardiologists are physicians trained in both cardiology and nuclear medicine. This position requires specialized knowledge and advanced education, as nuclear cardiologists use unique techniques in examining images of their patient's cardiovascular systems.
Nuclear cardiologists are licensed physicians who use specialized equipment to assess patients with heart disease. This career is for professionals with advanced medical training and expert knowledge of cardiovascular imaging, radiology and nuclear medicine. These cardiologists play an important role in the healthcare system, and they are expected to experience a favorable job outlook in upcoming years.
|Required Education||Doctoral degree|
|Additional Requirements||Medical license and cardiologist certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)*||4% for physicians and surgeons|
|Average Salary (2020)*||$218,850 annually for physicians and surgeons|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Nuclear Cardiology Career Information
Nuclear cardiology is the use of noninvasive procedures and techniques in the examination of patients with heart disease. Treatments implemented by nuclear cardiologists are used to gather information about heart pumping function, blood flow, heart rhythm and arterial blocking. The different types of treatments performed by a nuclear cardiologist include radionuclide ventriculography, myocardial perfusion, positron-emission tomography and nervous system imaging.
Radionuclide ventriculography gauges the heart's pumping function. Nuclear cardiologists inject a dose of an imaging agent into the patient's blood stream, which then fills up all four chambers of the heart, allowing a gamma camera to determine the ejection fraction, or pumping function. This treatment process is also used to check the effectiveness of certain medications used to strengthen the heart muscle.
In myocardial perfusion imaging, an imaging agent is injected into the patient to monitor blood flow at rest and during exercise. Patients are typically put through an exercise routine and then are evaluated using a specialized gamma camera. For patients who do not have the strength to exercise, nuclear cardiologists administer a chemically induced stress test, which simulates physical exercise. The goal is to assess whether or not the patient has a blockage in the coronary artery. Much like radionuclide ventriculography, myocardial perfusion imaging can also provide information on the pumping function of the heart.
Positron-emission tomography (PET) is implemented to evaluate the heart's metabolic activity and blood supply. Treatment involves operating specialized PET cameras used to isolate and determine if a blockage has occurred and what chamber is affected. Nuclear cardiologists often use this treatment to measure previous damage on patients who had a heart attack and to determine if they can be a candidate for bypass surgery or angioplasty.
Nervous system imaging involves inserting imaging agents in a patient's blood stream to weigh possible damage to the heart's nervous system. Nuclear cardiologists will be able to determine if there's an arrhythmia or abnormal heart rate. A gamma camera is used in the evaluation process.
Nuclear cardiologists must obtain a medical degree, finish a nuclear cardiology residency and earn their state medical license. Graduates can then become a certified nuclear cardiologist by enrolling in a fellowship program. Designed primarily for working cardiologists, this part of the training is usually about two years. Physicians working with cardiovascular patients can enroll in an advanced cardiac imaging fellowship to obtain adequate nuclear cardiology training.
Job Outlook and Salary Statistics
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies nuclear cardiologists in the broader category of physicians and surgeons, and it predicts an average job growth of 4% between 2019 and 2029 for the category. In 2020, the average annual salary for physicians and surgeons was $218,850, per the BLS.
Nuclear cardiologists use techniques such as radionuclide ventriculography, myocardial perfusion imaging, positron-emission tomography and nervous system imaging to look at the heart and blood in the body. Nuclear cardiologists must be licensed physicians who have completed residency and a fellowship as well as medical school in order to qualify for certification.