Although most patients will begin their heart-health journey with their primary care physician, it is still important to understand the differences between a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon. You should also know when to see a cardiologist or your primary care physician. 

Cardiologists and cardiac surgeons are both specialists in heart conditions, but their specialties are quite different. This means they often work together to treat patients with heart or cardiovascular problems.

In this article, we explain the differences between a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon. We also provide advice on who you should see for cardiovascular screenings, concerns or symptoms. 

What Is A Cardiologist?

Cardiologists are medical doctors, rather than surgical doctors. They specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disorders, including those that involve the heart and blood vessels. 

Cardiologists provide a range of diagnostic tests, screenings and treatments. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, medications and some of the most commonly used minimally invasive procedures.

Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists offers a wide variety of diagnostics, including:

  • Stress Test
  • Blood Test
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Holter Monitor
  • Nuclear Medicine Study
  • Diagnostic Cardiac Catheterization

Our highly experienced physicians provide a range of world-class cardiology care and procedures.

  • Advanced Heart and Vascular Center
    • Cardiac Catheterization (Diagnostic and Therapeutic)
    • Coronary Angioplasty/Stent
    • Peripheral Angiography
    • Peripheral Angioplasty/Stent
    • Pacemaker Placement
    • Defibrillator Placement
    • Implantable Loop Recorder Placement
  • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
  • Transcarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR)
  • WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device
  • Heart Failure Clinic
  • Vein Center

A cardiologist is usually the first specialist that you will see if your primary care doctor has concerns about your heart health. Depending on your condition, you may receive all of your treatment from a cardiologist. They may refer you to other specialists, such as a cardiac surgeon if needed. You may see your cardiologist for many years or even a lifetime if you require ongoing care or checkups. That’s why a good relationship with your cardiologist is important.

What Is A Cardiac Surgeon?

Cardiac or heart surgeons perform complex surgical procedures, such as heart surgeries, heart valve repair or replacement, coronary artery bypass surgery, maze procedure, placing artificial hearts or pumps, and heart transplants. The relationship between surgeons and patients is a lot shorter than with cardiologists. Typically, your cardiac surgeon will be involved before the surgery with a consultation to confirm the diagnosis and treatment, during the surgery, and afterward until post-surgical care is complete.

Who Should I See?

Although a referral from your primary care physician is not usually required to see a cardiologist, most patients with heart-health issues will be referred from their doctor. Many patients don’t even know they have heart risks (such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol) until they are advised by their primary care doctor. For those with symptoms, a visit to your doctor is usually the right place to start before seeking specialist treatment, especially as many health-insurance policies do not cover self-referral. 


At Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists, all new patients must be physician-referred unless your insurance policy offers a self-referral option. If your health insurance does include self-referral, you can make an appointment directly with us for screenings or to discuss your heart concerns. 


For patients already diagnosed with a heart condition, ongoing screenings and treatment will usually be provided by your cardiologist. If you have recently moved or are looking for a new cardiology provider, you can always contact us to see if you need a new referral before making an appointment. Should you require heart surgery, you will be referred by us to a cardiac surgeon.


The team at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists consists of North Louisiana’s leading experts in cardiovascular care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (318) 798-9400.