What is a pediatric cardiologist?
A pediatric cardiologist is a pediatrician with extra training to become a heart specialist. They diagnose and manage congenital and acquired heart disease in the unborn, infants, children, and adolescents. They also participate in the care of adults with congenital heart disease.
When would my child be referred to a pediatric cardiologist?
Unborn children with an abnormal screening ultrasound by the obstetrician or with a known risk factor for congenital heart disease can have a more extensive heart ultrasound while still in the womb. Newborns with heart murmurs are often referred for evaluation. Many of these infants end up having normal hearts and no further follow-up is necessary; however, about one in 100 of all newborns have a heart defect. Other reasons for referral include "blue babies," rapid breathing, and a rapid or irregular heart rhythm. In addition to murmurs, children and adolescents are referred for chest pain, syncope, high blood pressure and cholesterol evaluation, as well as questions about participation in sports. Pediatric cardiologists participate with adult cardiologists in the management of adults with congenital heart disease.
What kind of tests may the pediatric cardiologist recommend or perform?
- Electrocardiogram - electrical recording of the heart at one moment in time
- Oximetry - measurement of oxygen content in the capillaries of fingers and toes
- Stress test - a study on a treadmill to measure the heart's performance and limitations during exercise
- Holter monitor - an electrical recording of the heart during daily activity to look for abnormal heart rhythms
- Echocardiogram - a sound wave picture to look at the structure and function of the heart, similar to the ultrasound taken during pregnancy
- Heart catheterization - The patient is sedated and small catheters (tubes) are placed in blood vessels and the heart to measure pressure, oxygen content, and take moving pictures. Sometimes treatments are performed by the use of special catheters.