Cardiology is the medical discipline that deals with diagnosis, examination and treatment of diseases which affect the heart, the blood vessels that feed the heart (coronary arteries) and the circulatory system. Considering the fact that each cell of the body requires oxygen and nutrients, all carried by blood, to survive, importance of the diseases which are diagnosed and treated in Cardiology department is better understood.
Heart, coronary arteries that feed the heart, major arteries originating from the heart, capillary vessels, veins that return blood to the heart and the arteries and veins that transfer blood between heart and lungs are essential parts of a whole system. Any problem that occurs in one of these components leads to upstream or downstream effects on the whole circulatory system and causes vital problems in whole body. In light of this fact, Cardiology department works in cooperation with all other medical disciplines.
You will understand all details addressed in this article, if you know lexical meaning of certain terms. Our heart consists of three major structures. The heart muscle that pumps the blood from the heart is called myometrium. Endometrium implies the innermost lining of the heart. Our heart is surrounded by a membrane, called pericardium which isolates our heart from other organs. The heart is addressed in two parts: right heart and left heart. There is one atrium and one ventricle in both right and left hearts. There are four valves in the heart (mitral valve, aortic valve, tricuspid valve and pulmonary valve). The wall that separates right and left halves of the heart is called septum. These terms will assist you to understand below written explanations better.
Diagnostic Tools Specific for Cardiology Department
Electrocardiogram (ECG): This is a diagnostic device which records electric signals produced by cardiac muscle and conduction system. It is a valuable procedure as it does not require any intervention, easily available in all healthcare organizations, including emergency rooms, and provides information regarding functions of the heart within minutes.
Holter Monitor: This is a device which allows monitoring the heart rhythm for 24 hours. The device, which is the same size of a cell phone, is attached to the patient’s belt and heart rhythms are recorded for 24 hours. This is a valuable tool for diagnosis of heart rhythm disorders.
Echocardiography: This is a modality of ultrasound scan that is used in cardiology. It provides various critical details, such as viability of heart tissue, blood flow in heart chambers and structure of valves. It can be used for diagnosis of heart diseases, safely even for babies who are yet to be born, as it does not require preparation, it is not invasive and it provides critical information.
Cardiac stress test: The procedure is based on recording and assessment of ECG traces while the patient is walking on a treadmill. It is used for evaluating the response of patient’s blood pressure, heart rhythm and heart rate to the exercise. It should be performed under supervision of a cardiologist. This is a valuable tool for diagnosis of heart diseases at early stage.
Heart scintigraphy: This procedure is used to evaluate functions of heart muscles.
Cardiac MRI: This procedure is a modality of Magnetic Resonance Imaging which is used in the field of Cardiology. It is used for gaining detailed images of anatomic structures and tissues of heart.
Coronary CT Angiography: This diagnostic tool is preferred in selected patients due to its non-invasive nature before a coronary angiography.
Other than above mentioned methods, there are various other diagnostic tools specific for cardiology department such as TEE (Trasesophageal Echocardiography), Stress Echocardiography, Tilt Table Test, CT Coronary Angiography, Cardiac Catheterization and Angiography etc.
Coronary Angiography and Stent
Blood circulation in heart tissues should be perfect for the heart to perform its functions smoothly. Blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the heart tissue are called coronary arteries. Stenosis or obstruction of coronary arteries causes loss of viability in heart tissue, gradually progressing to a a fatal problem that eventually ends with cardiac arrest. If required, a stent is placed after dilating the obstructed or stenotic coronary artery to eliminte this risk. A stent ensures patency of lumen and ensures sufficient supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart tissue.
A catheter is placed to an artery in the groin during Coronary Angiography. After the catheter is advanced to the heart, a dye (contrasting agent) is administered into coronary arteries to figure out if they are obstructed or if there is another problem.
Pacemakers are devices which regulate rate, rhythm and pumping force of the heart in treatment of various heart diseases. Pacemakers, which are essentially small computers, can be implanted temporarily or permanently. A method called telemetry is used for connecting to the pacemaker and adjusting the device in accordance with each patient’s requirement after the pacemaker is implanted.
Electrophysiological Study and Ablation
The heart has a regular rhythm due to its native signal generation center and conduction network. Any problem in generation or conduction of signals causes rhythm problems that may lead to fatal results.
Generation and conduction of electric signals inside the heart are assessed after a catheter is advanced into the heart, as mentioned in coronary angiography. Treatment is also performed during this diagnostic procedure, if any problem is identified in signal generation or conduction. This is a permanent solution for tachycardia, which refers to a heart rate above 100 beats per minute.
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