A Brief History of Cardiology
Cardiology stretches way back in time to William Harvey in 1628 who was an English doctor. He was the first person to document how the circulation of blood was pumped through the body via the heart as well as the properties of the blood itself. In 1706 Raymond de Vieussens a French anatomy professor explained how the structured and vessels of the heart worked, while in 1733 Stephen Hales was the first man to measure a persons blood pressure. This laid the foundations for what we know as cardiology today, and in the last few decades’ progress in this field has been fast.
The Early 1900’s
It wasn’t until 1912 though until heart disease was described as hardening of the arteries by James Bryan Herrick, a US doctor, with the first heart surgery not taking place until 1938 by Robert E. Gross, an American surgeon. After WWII technology started to take-off with replacement heart valves, a mechanical heart and a blood purifier all appearing in the 1950’s.
The first heart transplant took place in 1967 by South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard, and the first artificial heart was used in 1982 by Willem DeVries, a US surgeon.
What is a cardiologist?
A cardiologist is a person trained in heart and artery disorders, and will perform many tests and procedures to find a diagnosis, as well as specializing in all parts of the cardiovascular system. Not only do they look for problems they can also work on prevention with patients, especially those who have family members that have genetic cardio issues.
It can take many years for a cardiologist to be trained, and once a person is under the care of one they can expect to have numerous tests to help the cardiologist make a complete and accurate diagnosis. If a specialist of this nature is unable to help a patient then they are likely to be passed over to a cardiovascular surgeon who is the one that performs actual surgery.
Cardiology is itself split into many different fields with a specialist usually concentrating on one. These include:
• Nuclear Cardiology – As the name suggests this uses radioactive techniques for examining cardiovascular diseases and disorders, and includes planar imaging and infarction imaging.
• Cardiac electrophysiology – This is the study of all the electrical properties of the heart.
• Interventional Cardiology – Probably one of the most well-known fields these days with the use of angioplasties, coronary thrombectomies, valvuloplasties and heart defect corrections. These techniques can be used as treatment or for preventative measures.
• Echocardiography – Using ultrasound waves the cardiologist can build up a very good picture of how the valves, chambers and the heart muscles are working, this can help with the diagnosis of many forms of heart disease.
What Does a Cardiologist Do With A Patient?
When a cardiologist first sees a patient they will sit down and review the history of the person, and then do some routine tests including a physical exam and checking blood pressure. He would go through all your symptoms in detail to try and form a diagnosis. If no problems are obvious further tests will be taken including a blood test, x-ray and an ECG. Depending on these results he may recommended lifestyle changes, and this is usually the case for people who are overweight or may be genetically predisposed to suffer from heart disease.
Other tests that may be performed:
• Exercise – You may be monitored while on a treadmill to see how your heart, lungs and circulation perform, this can give a very good picture of any underlying problems.
• Ambulatory ECG – This records your electrical responses during exercise to see if you have any abnormal heart rhythms.
• Echocardiogram – This involves the use of sound waves that shows clearly the structure of the heart.
• Cardiac Catheterization – This is a small tube that is inserted into the heart, but is not as horrifying as it may sound, it is a rather painless and simple procedure these days. It is used to check the hearts electrical signals and can relieve blockages.
Issues of the heart
As the heart is the most important organ in the body as without it nothing else works, it is imperative that the field of cardiology does everything it can to help patients live a long and healthy life.
The heart itself is a complex organ with electric signals, valves, muscles, blood vessels, and ventricles and problems with any part of it can prove terminal if not diagnosed or treated correctly so the cardiologist has a very vital job, especially as heart disease is the biggest killer in the Western world with around 30% of all deaths related to it.
The heart is a biological pump and problems with valves can cause certain symptoms like dizziness and getting out of breath quickly, something a cardiologist would quickly pick up on. Valves tend to fail over time so it is important patients with the related symptoms are referred early to prevent the disease progressing.
Advances in Cardiology
One of the biggest advances in this field in recent years has been the use of stents which are inserted into the artery in the inner thigh and guided up to the heart. These have helped save numerous lives and can help with aneurisms and blockages. If a person is found to be having a heart attack then depending on the cause this kind of treatment can be administered quickly and recovery time is almost instant.
The field of Cardiology continues to progress, and this can only be a great help to the patients.