Pediatric Cardiologist

Pediatric cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating heart conditions in children. Your child may need to see one if they were born with congenital heart disease or develop a heart condition after birth. Pediatric cardiologists create treatment plans and work with other healthcare providers to give your child the care they need.

What is a pediatric cardiologist?

Pediatric cardiologists are medical doctors with special training in diagnosing and treating heart conditions and symptoms in babies and children. Some pediatric cardiologists will also work with adults over age 18 who were born with congenital heart disease and need long-term care.

Pediatric cardiologists identify and manage a wide range of heart conditions in children. They understand how a heart condition might affect other aspects of your child’s health. They also know that heart conditions can happen due to issues elsewhere in your child’s body or certain genetic syndromes. For example, Turner syndrome can raise your child’s risk of heart and blood vessel problems.

Pediatric cardiologists are prepared to understand what’s causing your child’s symptoms. They’ll create a treatment plan and be with you every step of the way.

They’re also committed to supporting your child’s health as they grow. Some children may continue to see their pediatric cardiologist beyond age 18. That’s because pediatric cardiologists know how heart problems present at birth might affect an adult down the road. Plus, they become experts in your child’s unique medical history and needs. There are also adult cardiologists who specialize in caring for adults who were born with congenital heart disease.

What’s the difference between a pediatric cardiologist and a cardiologist?

Pediatric cardiologists specialize in the types of heart issues that affect babies at birth or early in life. Their areas of expertise are different than those of cardiologists, who typically manage heart disease in adults over age 18.

For example, cardiologists manage conditions that occur later in life (acquired conditions). A common example is coronary artery disease (CAD). On the other hand, pediatric cardiologists manage issues that are present at birth. Examples include atrial and ventricular septal defects, or hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). They also treat conditions children can develop after birth, like problems with their heart rhythm or heart muscle.


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What does a pediatric cardiologist do?

Pediatric cardiologists diagnose and manage heart conditions in:

  • Fetuses (before birth).
  • Babies (after birth).
  • Children.
  • Adolescents and young adults.
  • Adults over 18 (sometimes).

Here are some things you can expect your pediatric cardiologist to do:

  • Use various diagnostic tools to identify heart issues in your child.
  • Create treatment plans, including before birth (in cases where prenatal testing uncovers heart problems in the fetus).
  • See your child for appointments.
  • Order tests for your child and explain the results to you.
  • Refer your child to other specialists, like surgeons, for certain kinds of treatments.
  • Tell you how often your child needs appointments or care.
  • Educate you about your child’s condition and some of the science behind it.
  • Explain how you can take care of your child at home.

Your pediatric cardiologist is an expert in your child’s heart. But they also know that heart issues can affect many aspects of your child’s life. So, they recognize that your child may need care from many different specialists. Pediatric cardiologists work with these other providers to make sure your child gets the care they need.

For example, your child’s pediatric cardiologist might exchange knowledge and resources with:

Where do pediatric cardiologists work?

Pediatric cardiologists work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals.
  • Outpatient clinics.
  • Research labs.
  • Colleges and universities.

Some pediatric cardiologists spend most of their time working directly with children and their families. Others spend some time doing research or teaching. Their balance of responsibilities depends on their specific job and its expectations.

What diseases do pediatric cardiologists treat?

Pediatric cardiologists are prepared to diagnose and treat a range of problems that can affect your child’s heart. Some examples include:

  • Congenital heart disease. This broad category includes many different heart issues babies are born with. Some are minor and easily treatable, while others are more complex or require emergency treatment.
  • Arrhythmias. These are abnormal heart rhythms that occur when the electrical system in your child’s heart doesn’t work as it should. Your child’s heart may beat too quickly or slowly. Or, it might skip a beat or have extra beats. Most arrhythmias in children aren’t a cause for concern. Others may need treatment to prevent serious complications.
  • Cardiomyopathy. This is a group of conditions that affect your child’s heart muscle. The muscle may be stiff, too large or too thick. As a result, your child’s heart can’t pump as effectively as it should and has trouble delivering enough blood throughout their body.
  • Hypertension. This is when the force of blood flowing through your child’s arteries is too strong. The condition may occur throughout their body (systemic hypertension) or in certain areas, like their lungs (pulmonary hypertension).

What common symptoms do pediatric cardiologists see children for?

Pediatric cardiologists often see children with symptoms that may be related to the heart, including:


How do I become a pediatric cardiologist?

You may be reading about pediatric cardiologists because you’re interested in becoming one. If that’s the case, your life experiences may have inspired you to pursue this path. Or, maybe you’re intrigued by the science. No matter the reason, becoming a pediatric cardiologist is a meaningful life goal. You can help many children and their families and give them hope.

First, though, you need many years of school and rigorous training. You’ll need to complete:

  • Undergraduate education (typically four years).
  • Medical school (at least four years).
  • Residency in pediatrics (three years).
  • Fellowship training in pediatric cardiology (at least three years).
  • Board certification through the American Board of Pediatrics, Sub-board of Pediatric Cardiology.

During your fellowship, you may choose a focus area, like:

  • Identifying heart issues in a developing fetus and planning for treatment after birth (fetal cardiology).
  • Performing heart catheterization procedures.
  • Providing care to children in the cardiac intensive care unit (ICU).
  • Diagnosing and treating heart rhythm problems.
  • Using advanced imaging technologies (like MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, and CT, or computed tomography) to diagnose and manage heart problems.
  • Managing heart failure and heart transplant.
  • Managing adult congenital heart disease, or conditions a child is born with that need monitoring or treatment in adulthood.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Pediatric cardiologists are with your family during the scariest, as well as the happiest, moments of your lives. They might give you the hardest news you have to hear, but they’ll also be there to celebrate milestones and triumphs.

When your child has a heart condition, you might feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Your pediatric cardiologist is right there next to you for the ups and the downs. They’ll use their knowledge and experience to give your child the best possible care and help you understand what comes next.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 08/14/2023.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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