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What Does a Pediatric Cardiologist Do?

by Beth Greenwood

A cardiologist who specializes in pediatrics, or pediatric cardiologist, has chosen to work with children who have heart and circulatory problems. Although they specialize in the care of children, pediatric cardiologists sometimes manage children over many years and even into adulthood, according to the Council of Pediatric Subspecialties. Since the scope of this discipline is extensive, pediatric cardiologists have many different responsibilities.

From the Beginning

All pediatric cardiologists begin their careers as pediatricians, where they obtain basic training in the care of children during college, medical school and residency. The next step is a fellowship -- a period of extensive training that usually lasts at least 3 years. Fellowship training provides the specialty knowledge and skills a pediatric cardiologist will need to practice. In addition, all pediatric cardiologists must be licensed to practice medicine, and, although certification is optional, most choose to become certified in the specialty.

Birth Defects

Adult cardiologists treat patients who have developed cardiac problems as they age, while pediatric cardiologists are more likely to treat children with anatomical defects, according to the College Foundation of North Carolina website. The March of Dimes notes that birth defects can include problems such as heart murmurs, septal defects, narrowing of the aorta, heart valve abnormalities or multiple defects, such as tetralogy of Fallot, which prevents blood from getting to the lungs so the baby doesn’t have enough oxygen. Many of these conditions require surgery, but a pediatric cardiologist provides medical management rather than surgery and works in collaboration with the surgeon.

Procedures and More

In addition to the basics of physical assessment, diagnosis and patient management, pediatric cardiologists usually perform a number of procedures. In some cases, they may even perform procedures on babies who are still in the womb. Cardiac catheterization is a fairly common procedure in this specialty and involves passing a thin plastic tube into a baby or child’s artery, injecting dye and evaluating the child’s vascular system or heart. The recommended training for pediatric cardiologists also includes echocardiography, intensive care management, inpatient management and electrophysiology, according to a December 2005 article in Pediatrics.

A Long Day's Work

Pediatric cardiologists may work in either inpatient or outpatient settings; some pediatric cardiologists work in both areas. In addition to interventions such as cardiac catheterizations, pediatric cardiologists must be skilled in interpretation of various diagnostics tests, according to the COPS. Most pediatric cardiologists take care of patients, but they may also work exclusively in research or in medical education. Any of these physicians may work long hours, and those in clinical care may need to work shifts or take emergency calls.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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