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Cardiology

Comprehensive Heart Health Services

At Butler Health System, we offer heart health services from skilled, board-certified cardiologists trained at world-renowned institutions. These physicians are experts in many aspects of heart health. Cardiologists perform interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, open-heart surgery, cardiac and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, and other procedures. When heart surgery is recommended to one of our patients, our cardiac surgeons utilize the least invasive approach whenever possible. Minimally invasive surgeries only involve smaller incisions, which optimizes healing time and recovery.

It’s vital to protect and take care of your heart health, especially because heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women worldwide. Not only is heart disease exceedingly common, with half of Americans being at risk for heart disease, but it is a silent killer, as well. Most people are unaware they have a heart condition until they experience a cardiac event such as a heart attack, cardiac arrest, or stroke. If you suspect you have heart disease from symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, speak to your primary care physician for a possible referral to a cardiologist.

What is Cardiology?

Cardiology is a branch of internal medicine that focuses on diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels. Cardiovascular services focus on blood vessels such as the veins and arteries throughout the body that transport blood to and from the heart. For example, the body’s veins are responsible for transporting blood back into the heart for fresh oxygenation and nutrients, whereas the arteries lead blood away from the heart throughout the rest of the body. When the heart or blood vessels don’t work properly, consequences vary, but heart disease can severely impact quality of life if left untreated.

What Does a Cardiologist Do?

Cardiologists are physicians who specialize in heart health and conditions that impair heart function. A cardiologist can diagnose heart problems through a diagnostic process that includes checking the patient’s weight, heart, lungs, blood pressure, and more during a physical examination. During these patient examinations, a cardiologist may order follow-up tests to check for a heart murmur or abnormal heart rhythm. Cardiologists also treat patients who have had a previous heart attack or other heart problems such as heart failure. Your cardiologist will partner with you to decide if treatment options, which may include heart surgery, catheterization, or angioplasty and stenting, among others.

Physicians who specialize in heart health are called cardiologists. These doctors diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions such as:

  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart valve defects
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • And many others

Diagnosing a Heart Condition

Heart disease is known as “the silent killer” because it isn’t always apparent until a major health crisis occurs. Heart conditions progressively worsen over time, and the early symptoms may be difficult to ascertain. For this reason, it’s crucial to keep regular annual physicals with your primary care physician to check for possible signs of heart ailments. Not only will your primary care physician notice a heart condition, but they also keep track of your health over the years. Even when you’re healthy, routine physical exams provide valuable information to your doctor for your medical history to establish a baseline. Once your primary care physician suspects you have a heart condition, they will also refer you to a cardiologist who can diagnose it with pinpointed accuracy.

There are numerous tests that a cardiologist can order to check for heart disease. An accurate diagnosis is important because it dictates the patient's treatment to get better or effectively manage their condition. A variety of tests are used to diagnose heart disease – some are noninvasive, others are more so.

Noninvasive Tests to Diagnose Heart Disease

The following are examples of noninvasive diagnostic tests for heart disease:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This painless test measures the electrical activity of the heart, and it can detect arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, or a previous heart attack. The test also is used to determine how well a pacemaker is working.
  • Echocardiogram: Also called an “echo,” this test takes an ultrasound of the heart to evaluate the heart’s valves and chambers to assess the pumping action of the heart. It can also evaluate blood flow across heart valves when combined with a Doppler ultrasound.
  • Stress test: During an exercise stress test, the doctor assesses how well the heart works during physical activity when the heart pumps harder and faster. It can diagnose coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and check your heart before surgery.
  • Carotid ultrasound: The carotid arteries are found in the neck, and the test is used to show whether plaque has begun to narrow one or both of the arteries, which will reduce blood flow to the brain, putting the patient at risk of a stroke.
  • Holter monitor: This portable electrocardiogram records the heart’s electrical activity continuously over 24+ hours to detect heart rhythm problems, especially if a traditional ECG/EKG has inconclusive results.
  • Tilt table test: During this noninvasive test, the patient lies on a table that adjusts the body from a horizontal to a vertical position, which simulates standing up. It is used to detect faulty brain signals that cause low blood pressure and evaluate the causes of unexplained fainting.
  • CT scan: This imaging test is a series of cross-dimensional X-rays to check for the presence of calcium buildup in the heart arteries from detailed pictures of the heart and its blood vessels.
  • Heart MRI: These tests capture images of the heart to visualize the soft tissues such as the nearby blood vessels. It can assess and diagnose many conditions, including congenital heart detects, coronary artery disease, and the damage caused by a heart attack, among others.

Invasive Tests to Diagnose Heart Disease

If noninvasive tests aren’t conclusive, your cardiologist may want to look inside the body to determine what’s causing your symptoms. These tests include:

  • Cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography: To evaluate heart function, a long, narrow tube is guided into the coronary arteries via a blood vessel in the arm or leg. During the coronary angiogram, images are taken to identify the site of a narrowed or blocked coronary artery. It may be combined with other tests or even heart treatments such as angioplasty.
  • Electrophysiology (EP) study: During the EP study, a small, thin wire electrode is inserted into a vein in the groin or neck and threaded through a vein into the heart via X-ray guidance. Once in the heart, the electrodes can detect faulty electrical signals that cause abnormal heart rhythms.

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