Cardiologist and a Cardiac Surgeon- What is the difference?

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Heart diseases can be fatal! One of the top causes of death worldwide, cardiovascular diseases, are preventable even if you’re at high risk due to family history. From severe hypertension to elevated cholesterol, to heart rhythm issues, or congenital heart defects, all of these crucial health conditions are well-managed by specialists trained in treating cardiovascular diseases.

Like any other medical specialty, it’s a highly diversified branch that covers cases for adults and children, congenital heart problems, heart failure, electrophysiology, interventional, and preventive cardiology. Both, cardiologists and cardiac surgeons are able to deal with the complexity of cardiovascular diseases and the circulatory system, while performing certain procedures assisting in diagnosing and treating conditions affecting heart health. 

While both specialize in treating heart conditions, they deal with different aspects of treatment.


When a person is diagnosed with heart ailments, a cardiologist should be the first line of contact after a primary physician. Since physical examination is not enough in diagnosing coronary diseases, cardiologists opt for diagnostic tests like echocardiogram, ECG, stress test, and CT/MRI scans to uncover conditions like issues with heart valves, atrial fibrillation, or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats). A cardiologist can also perform minimally invasive procedures such as amgiogram, implanting stents, or pacemakers. 

Cardiac Surgeons 

Knowing you need to see a cardiac surgeon can be concerning but eventually, you will only see the specialist if a cardiologist determines the need for surgical intervention. In complex surgical procedures, both cardiologist and cardiac surgeon work together until complete post-surgery care. In some cases, specialists like a pulmonologist or gastroenterologist may also recommend you consult a cardiac surgeon, depending on the condition and preliminary evaluation results. However, a surgeon will rarely see a patient outside of surgical consultation, operation, and early aftercare.

Cardiac surgeons perform surgery on the heart, aorta, pulmonary vein, and other crucia structures related to heart health. Some of the surgical procedures include coronary artery bypass, congenital heart defect, aneurysm, heart valve repair, full cardiac transplant, or artificial heart and pumps. Depending on specialization, a cardiac can treat the lungs, oesophagus, and thymus, although these fall under the ambit of specialists known as cardiothoracic & vascular surgeons.

Final Thoughts

While both specialists have a degree of expertise to a certain extent, the vital difference comes in terms of dealing with and treating heart conditions. Since we have discussed their roles separately, cardiologists often follow their patients for a much longer period than cardiac surgeons. In critical times, their comprehensive approach helps in improving quality of life and saving patients.

Last modified: November 22, 2021

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