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Heart Basics

Get to know your medical team

If you plan to undergo heart valve repair or replacement surgery, you will be cared for by a team of cardiac medical specialists who are committed to ensuring your safety and comfort before, during, and after your procedure. Below you will find information describing different health care professionals you may meet during the course of your care.

Primary care physician — May be the first to identify the symptoms of heart valve disease or other conditions that can cause heart valve disease or defects. He or she may order special tests to confirm the diagnosis or refer you to the appropriate specialist.

Cardiologist — The physician who specializes in diseases of the heart. The cardiologist does not perform heart surgery but often performs diagnostic tests to identify the cause of heart problems and determine the course of treatment to manage heart disease. The cardiologist may prescribe medications and/or refer you to a cardiovascular surgeon.

Cardiac care team — Here your medical team of cardiologists, nurses, and technicians will perform diagnostic tests, administer medications to stabilize your condition, and monitor your status. If your condition is stabilized, you may be released from the hospital and instructed to follow up with your primary care physician or cardiologist. If surgery is the best option, you will be referred to a cardiovascular surgeon.

Cardiovascular surgeon — The physician who specializes in heart surgery, including the repair or replacement of heart valves.

Anesthesiologist — The anesthesiologist (doctor) or anesthetist (nurse) are trained to provide sedation or general anesthesia (sleep) during surgical procedures.

Critical care physicians and nurses — The critical care or intensive care unit in a hospital is a specialized area where you are closely monitored and treated following cardiovascular surgery. The critical care team manages your care during this time.