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Which medical professionals treat structural heart disease?

Structural heart disease is any defect, present at birth or acquired later in life, in the heart muscle. This includes any harmful abnormalities in the walls that form the heart’s chambers or the wall that divides the left side of the heart from the right, the valves that regulate blood flow through your heart, or the major arteries that carry blood away from your heart to the body or cycle blood to your lungs.

Severe structural heart disease will often require open-heart surgery. If your cardiologist recommends that your condition may best be treated by surgery, you will be referred to a cardiac surgeon (also called a cardiothoracic surgeon). A cardiac surgeon specializes in disorders of the heart, lungs, esophagus and chest.  Becoming a cardiac surgeon requires four years of medical school, a five-year residency in general surgery, and two additional years of training in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery.

Increasingly, structural heart disease can be treated through catheter-based procedures. A catheter is a thin, flexible tube that can be inserted into an artery to deliver treatments. Physicians who specialize in using catheters to treat heart disease are called interventional cardiologists. Catheter-based procedures are less invasive than open-heart surgery and can lead to quicker patient recovery times. An interventional cardiologist is a cardiologist who has one to two years of additional education and training in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease and congenital (present at birth) and structural heart conditions.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.