What Are Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery?
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death among the population worldwide. A cardiologist deals with their diagnosis and treatment. This specialist also identifies risk factors and causes of certain diseases in their patients, analyzes the obtained diagnostic findings, and develops a program of post-therapy rehabilitation.
Cardiac surgery also deals with cardiovascular diseases cases, but only those who need surgical treatment. Cardiac surgeons often work in close collaboration with cardiologists: such an approach gives the best results.
Patients should consult with a cardiologist (or even seek emergency care) about the following complaints and symptoms:
- Pain and chest pressure. In the case of heart diseases, such symptoms are often accompanied by pain in the left arm and shoulder blade, pale skin, cold sweat, and fatigue. This set of symptoms is characteristic of a heart attack—a medical emergency that can cause death if not managed by specialists.
- Chest pain and shortness of breath on exertion. These may be signs of angina.
- Heart palpitation and feeling unwell. This symptom occurs in heart diseases for no apparent cause (it does not follow physical activity or stress).
- Shortness of breath on exertion, leg swelling, rapid fatigability—all this may indicate heart failure.
You should visit a cardiologist if you have these risk factors:
- the age of 40 and older;
- a family history of cardiovascular diseases;
- diabetes or thyroid problems;
- a history of a stroke;
The cardiologist will conduct a complete examination and patient survey and prescribe additional tests and examinations based on the data obtained. If the disease requires surgical treatment (for example, severe atherosclerosis, heart defects), the cardiologist refers the patient to a cardiac surgeon.
The Most Common Diseases
In most cases, a cardiologist faces these diseases in their everyday work:
- Cholesterol accumulates on the inner wall of a vessel and later turns into thick calcium-impregnated plaques. There is no non-surgical treatment for fatty deposits: being the only method, surgery is used for severe cases. Heart attacks, angina, aneurysms, arteritis are but a few examples of diseases often caused by atherosclerosis.
- Hypertension is high blood pressure. This disease may lead to damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart, and brain if not controlled at the proper time.
- Valvular heart diseases. Valvular heart diseases (stenosis, prolapses, insufficiency, etc.) are often cured through surgery: eliminating the cause of disturbed flow is of crucial importance. Therefore, a cardiac surgeon consultation cannot be omitted in this case.
- Arrhythmia means irregular heartbeat. Major heart centers have a special doctor, an arrhythmologist.
- Heart failure. For various reasons, the heart fails to provide organs and tissues with a sufficient amount of blood. Oxygen and nutrients deficiency leads to various trophic disorders, tissue hypoxia, and hemostasis.
- Thrombosis (mainly venous). It is the formation of a blood clot within a vein, which blocks blood flow.
The diseases that often require the involvement of cardiac surgeons in the treatment include valvular heart diseases, aneurysms, ischemic heart disease, severe atherosclerosis, thrombosis, and heart attacks. Congenital anomalies of the cardiovascular system that cause certain symptoms affecting the quality of the person’s life and their further development also belong to this group.
Heart Diseases Treatment Methods
In foreign clinics, a council of several cardiologists and cardiac surgeons decides whether a patient needs surgery or not. They analyze each clinical case thoroughly and re-assess the results of the diagnostic testing.
Atherosclerosis is a problem that requires surgical treatment most often. To determine the indications for surgery, angiography is used. It is an imaging test that gives the most accurate view of the vessel, which helps estimate the amount of its narrowing or dilation and see any obstacles to blood flow. Surgery does not involve incisions: the surgeon performs only a small puncture in the skin. The procedure is performed in an operating room using X-ray imaging.
Cardiac surgery in developed countries (Israel, Germany, and some others) has such advantages as the up-to-date equipment of operating rooms, strong experience, and qualification of local specialists. Abroad, minimally invasive surgery is doctors’ first choice since it involves minimal damage to tissues. The duration of postoperative observation of the case is minimized; the risk of various complications is lower.
Modern diagnostic and surgical equipment enables doctors to achieve excellent results in treating serious cardiac problems. Such operations are off-pump ones and involve no cardiopulmonary bypass, which is more preferable for debilitated or elderly patients because they are at risk of complications. Timely and comprehensive rehabilitation contributes to the success of cardiac surgery.
Cardiology mostly uses drug therapy. This method helps eliminate the disease symptoms (pain, ischemia, etc.) and reduce the amount of “bad” cholesterol, blood pressure and swelling, etc. A competent therapy scheme can bring the cardiovascular system back to normal.
Cardiologists often prescribe the following medications:
- antiplatelet drugs;
- vasoprotectives and vasodilators;
- antihypoxic drugs and antioxidants;
- venotonic drugs;
- minerals (magnesium, potassium).
Most foreign doctors have academic degrees and titles and exchange experience with colleagues from other countries. The specialists are members of international communities in their specialties and participants of research projects. All this makes their work faultless and able to bring their patients back to a happy life.
Recovery from cardiovascular diseases is a long process that often involves a radical lifestyle change. Patients should reconsider their:
- daily routine;
- unhealthy habits (drinking alcohol, smoking, etc.);
- mental state.
Rehabilitation includes three steps:
- Hospital stay: it takes 1–3 weeks, which the patient spends in the clinic, taking medications and doing remedial gymnastics under the supervision of healthcare workers. During this period, the primary skills lost during the illness are restored.
- Post-hospital therapy: up to one year. The patient gradually gets used to the new life in a health resort or at home.
- Maintenance therapy: the rest of the patient’s life. Its main purpose is to prevent recurrent cardiovascular diseases and promote healthy living.