Pediatric cardiology is a medical specialty focusing on children with heart and circulatory conditions. Training to prepare for this field includes medical school, a residency in pediatric or internal medicine, and a fellowship in pediatric cardiology. This advanced training provides practitioners with a variety of tools they can use in the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and management of children and teens with heart conditions. Some hospital facilities have specific programs dedicated to this service and may be recommended to parents if a child has a complex medical condition that cannot be handled at a regional medical center.
Some children are born with congenital heart conditions that require immediate attention, including surgery, shortly after birth. Other problems may become evident as children age. A pediatric cardiologist can evaluate a child and work with other members of a care team to determine which treatments to provide and when. Expertise with children in particular familiarizes practitioners with common childhood heart conditions and issues that may not be common in adult patients.
If a child exhibits signs of a heart problem, like shortness of breath, abnormal heart rhythm, or fainting, a specialist in pediatric cardiology may be called in. Treatment of such conditions can include surgical procedures, medications, and lifestyle adjustments. This can be of particular concern for young athletes, who may be at risk of serious complications if they do not receive appropriate care.
In addition to offering care services, pediatric cardiology also involves research and development. Doctors and other researchers have an interest in improving diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of heart conditions in children. They can work on new screening protocols, treatment regimens, and medications. This work may include field trials as well as bench research at medical device and pharmaceutical companies.
Another aspect of this field involves medical education. Patients and families may need education to learn to more effectively manage a heart condition. A specialist in pediatric cardiology can also be involved in a partnership with a primary care provider to provide ongoing monitoring and management of a specific child. Community outreach and education can involve initiatives like teaching parents about the signs of heart abnormalities or educating first responders on how to handle children in acute cardiac distress.
Hospitals with pediatric cardiology research and teaching programs may be able to offer a high standard of care to a child. Parents seeking second opinions or evaluations can meet with several providers to learn about the available options. It can help to ask about experience, recent publications, and references to determine whether a given cardiologist can provide an appropriate level of care.