Cardiovascular Technician

Cardiovascular technicians help doctors diagnose and treat disorders of the heart and blood vessels. They perform cardiac catheterizations, echocardiography (ultrasound), vascular sonography, and electrocardiographs (EKGs).

Cardiovascular technicians may specialize in any of the following three areas: invasive cardiology, echocardiography, and vascular technology.

Cardiovascular technicians specializing in invasive procedures are called invasive cardiovascular technologists. They assist physicians with cardiac catheterization procedures in which a small tube, or catheter, is threaded through a patient’s artery from the patient’s groin to the heart. This procedure is used to determine whether a blockage exists in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle.

Cardiovascular technicians who use ultrasound to examine the chambers, valves and vessels of the heart are referred to as cardiac sonographers. They use ultrasound instrumentation to create echocardiograms, and may administer medication to physically active patients to assess their heart function. Cardiac sonographers also may assist physicians who perform transesophageal echocardiography, which involves placing a tube in the patient’s esophagus to obtain ultrasound images.

Cardiovascular technicians who assist physicians in the diagnosis of disorders affecting the circulation are known as vascular technologists, vascular specialists or vascular sonographers. They perform a noninvasive procedure using ultrasound instrumentation to record vascular information such as vascular blood flow, blood pressure, changes in limb volume, oxygen saturation, cerebral circulation, peripheral circulation, and abdominal circulation.

Cardiovascular technicians who obtain EKGs are known as electrocardiograph (or EKG) technicians. To take a basic EKG, technicians attach electrodes to a patient’s chest, arms, and legs, then manipulate switches on an EKG machine to obtain a reading. This test is done before most kinds of surgery or as part of a routine physical examination, especially on persons who have reached middle age or who have a history of cardiovascular problems.