CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNOLOGY

In addition to the cardiac and vascular sonographers discussed in the Radiology section of this resource notebook, cardiologists rely on another group of specialists for assistance in diagnosing and treating cardiac (heart) and peripheral vascular (blood vessel) ailments. These professionals are known as cardiovascular technologists.

CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNOLOGISTS

Registered cardiovascular technologists perform invasive and noninvasive tests ordered by a physician to access the health of the patient’s heart. They may specialize in invasive cardiology, echocardiography, or vascular technology.

Invasive Procedures: Specialists who assist physicians with cardiac catheterization procedures are known as cardiology technologists. In this invasive procedure, a small tube, or catheter, is inserted into a blood vessel in the patient’s leg and threaded into the heart to determine if there is a blockage in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle. The procedure also can assist in diagnosing other heart problems.

After diagnosing a blockage, the physician may elect to remedy the problem by performing a balloon angioplasty instead of heart surgery. Cardiology technologists assist the physician in inserting a catheter with a balloon on the end to the point of obstruction.

Cardiology technologists are responsible for preparing patients for cardiac catheterization, balloon angioplasty, pacemaker implantation, and openheart surgery. Typical duties include positioning the patient on the examining or operating table; shaving, cleaning, and administering anesthesia to the top part of the leg for catheterizations; monitoring blood pressure and heart rate; and alerting the physician to any difficulties.

Noninvasive Procedures: Technologists specializing in echocardiography (heart) or vascular technology (blood flow and circulation) usually perform noninvasive procedures that do not require the insertion of probes or other instruments into the patient’s body. Often they utilize ultrasound equipment, which transmits high-frequency sound waves into areas of the patient’s body and processes reflected echoes of the waves to create images of the body. Scans are recorded for interpretation and diagnosis by a physician. Technologists are responsible for performing the scans and determining the quality of the images. They interact with patients, explaining procedures and taking medical histories.

For more information about vascular technologists/sonographers as well as cardiac sonographers, see the Sonography areas of the Radiology section of this notebook.

Career Outlook

Employment opportunities for cardiovascular technologists are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is being spurred by an aging population because older people have a higher incidence of heart problems.