Cardiologist vs. Cardiothoracic surgeon: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve ever had to look for a heart doctor, you’re possibly aware that there are various types of heart specialists. There are cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, pediatric cardiologists, and more.

A cardiologist is a heart doctor who evaluates and treats heart problems without performing surgery. On the other hand, a cardiothoracic surgeon is the one who generally performs surgery of the heart and chest.

In this article, let’s take a look at their differences and how to consult for your eye needs.

What is a cardiologist, and what do they do?

Cardiologists are doctors who assess, diagnose, and treat patients with diseases of the cardiovascular system. They also promote heart health.

Tests they give and what they can treat

If you are experiencing or have a history of arrhythmia, heart attack, heart failure, heart valve disease, and high blood pressure, you can consult a cardiologist. Cardiologists may give physical exams and order certain tests to make a diagnosis. These include the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Interpret tests
  • Exercise stress tests
  • X-ray

And to promote heart health, they may recommend lifestyle changes such as managing weight and observing a well-balanced diet.

When to see a cardiologist

You should see a cardiologist if you notice any of these symptoms:

Chest pain. It often happens when your heart does not get enough oxygen. No matter how mild or severe the chest pain is, it’s best to seek medical advice to address it properly.

Dizziness. If you’ve been feeling dizzy frequently, it could be a sign of a heart problem or unstable blood pressure.

Shortness of breath. Having difficulty in breathing can be a warning sign of heart disease and should be addressed with a cardiologist immediately.


What is a cardiothoracic surgeon, and what do they do?

A cardiothoracic surgeon is a medical doctor who operates on the heart, lungs, and other thoracic organs. Cardiac surgery doctors perform a variety of surgeries, from minimally invasive to heart transplants.

What they can treat

Cardiothoracic surgeons can treat the following conditions:

  • Aortic dissection
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Lung cancer
  • Mediastinal tumors
  • Thoracic aortic aneurysm
  • Thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Valvular stenosis

Cardiothoracic surgeries and procedures they perform

While not all heart-related problems require surgery, there are situations when it is needed to correct heart rhythm problems, repair weakened heart muscle, and open up coronary arteries narrowed by fatty plaque buildup. A cardiothoracic surgeon performs a wide range of surgery including the following:

  • Ablation
  • Angioplasty
  • Carotid surgery
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting
  • Heart transplant
  • Heart valve repair or replacement
  • Open heart surgery
  • Stent placement

Your surgeon will make sure that you and your families know what to expect during surgery and how to carefully address your concerns.


Cardiologists and cardiac surgery doctors are both heart specialists who can help treat and take care of your heart. Choosing the right heart doctor will depend on the services you need. To find the right one, be sure to contact a clinic or hospital near you.