By April Garbuz, Wilton High School
Do you want to heal broken hearts? Dr. Charles Augenbraun shared with me what it's like being a cardiologist. His favorite part of the job? The ability treat and modify diseases that would otherwise shorten people's lives or limit their ability to remain fully active and live a full life.
What advice would you give to a student interested in becoming a cardiologist?
Be prepared for a long course of study - high school, college, medical school, medical residency (3 years), and finally cardiology fellowship (3-4 years). Look for every opportunity early on to get some exposure to medicine and cardiology just to be sure you find it really interesting and fulfilling. Keep in mind that the first decision is whether to pursue medicine and go to medical school. It is not necessary to decide on a specific field of medicine until after medical school is completed.
In your opinion, what procedure and/or treatment has saved the most lives?
In the treatment of acute heart attack the use of emergency angioplasty has resulted in a clear cut improvement in survival. On the other hand, medications such as the "statins" which lower cholesterol, aspirin which prevents blood clots, and antihypertensives which lower blood pressure have a huge impact. These preventative treatments save many more lives by preventing the heart attacks and strokes in the first place.
What cutting-edge technology has proved most vital to the cardiology field?
Angioplasty and stenting of coronary arteries. This technique has evolved over the last 25 years. It allows cardiologists to open blocked arteries using small tubes that are in inserted in a blood vessel in the arm or thigh. The procedure can be done with local anesthetic as it only requires a small needle puncture similar to starting an IV. In many cases it replaces the need for open heart surgery.
An invasive cardiologist is one who does procedures like angioplasty and cardiac catherization. A non-invasive cardiologist does everything except those procedures.
What is cardiac catheterization? When is the procedure necessary?
Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic procedure (not treatment). It involves putting a small tube into an artery in the thigh or arm. The tube is guided through the blood vessels to the heart. It is used to inject xray dye into the coronary arteries and heart chambers while xray pictures are taken. It allows exact diagnosis of blocked arteries (coronary artery disease) and abnormal heart chambers and valves. It is done with local anesthesia and is generally painless.
What is the most common heart problem you treat?
Coronary Artery Disease. Controlling cholesterol, treating high blood pressure, treating diabetes, exercising, and eating a good diet all play a role in reducing the risk.