Cardiology is a branch of medicine dealing with disorders of the heart. The field includes medical diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease, heart failure, valvular heart disease and electrophysiology.
As the center focus of cardiology, the heart has numerous anatomical features (e.g., atria, ventricles, heart valves) and numerous physiological features (e.g., systole, heart sounds, afterload) that have been encyclopedically documented for many centuries.
Disorders of the heart lead to heart disease and cardiovascular disease and can lead to a significant number of deaths: cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and caused 29.34% of all deaths in 2002.
The primary responsibility of the heart is to pump blood throughout the body. It pumps blood from the body — called the systemic circulation — through the lungs — called the pulmonary circulation — and then back out to the body. This means that the heart is connected to and affects the entirety of the body. Simplified, the heart is a circuit of the Circulation. While plenty is known about the healthy heart, the bulk of study in cardiology is in disorders of the heart and restoration, and where possible, of function.
The heart is a muscle that squeezes blood and functions like a pump. Each part of the heart is susceptible to failure or dysfunction and the heart can be divided into the mechanical and the electrical parts.
The electrical part of the heart is centered on the periodic contraction (squeezing) of the muscle cells that is caused by the cardiac pacemaker located in the sinoatrial node. The study of the electrical aspects is a sub-field of electrophysiology called cardiac electrophysiology and is epitomized with the electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG). The action potentials generated in the pacemaker propagate throughout the heart in a specific pattern. The system that carries this potential is called the electrical conduction system. Dysfunction of the electrical system manifests in many ways and may include Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome, ventricular fibrillation, and heart block.
The mechanical part of the heart is centered on the fluidic movement of blood and the functionality of the heart as a pump. The mechanical part is ultimately the purpose of the heart and many of the disorders of the heart disrupt the ability to move blood. Failure to move sufficient blood can result in failure in other organs and may result in death if severe. Heart failure is one condition in which the mechanical properties of the heart have failed or are failing, which means insufficient blood is being circulated.