Mayo Clinic cardiovascular invasive specialist reviewing imaging scans on a computer

What does a cardiovascular invasive specialist do?

Cardiovascular technologists who perform invasive procedures are called cardiovascular invasive specialists. Cardiovascular invasive specialists work with physicians to examine and treat patients with cardiac disease.

Specifically, cardiovascular invasive specialists assist physicians with cardiac catheterization procedures in which a small tube (catheter) is guided through the patient's blood vessels into the heart or other area of the cardiovascular system. This procedure many times eliminates the need for more complicated procedures such as heart surgery. It can determine if a blockage exists in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle and help diagnose structural or electrical abnormalities of the cardiovascular system.

Scope of practice

A cardiovascular invasive specialist completes a wide variety of duties on a day-to-day basis. They work regularly with many members of a health care team including, physicians, surgeons, and nurses. They also work closely with patients of all ages who experience heart-related conditions and complications. 

Common roles and responsibilities of a cardiovascular invasive specialist include:

  • Preparing patients and equipment for cardiac catheterization and interventions
  • Performing common catheterization interventions including, stent placements, balloon angioplasties, heart valve replacements, and electrophysiology tests
  • Operating intracardiac or intravascular ultrasound equipment, fluoroscopy equipment, or other imaging systems
  • Assisting with handling venous and arterial catheters and wires
  • Monitoring blood pressure and heart rate using electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) equipment during procedures including coronary angiography, pacemaker implantation, aortic stenosis studies, and patent foramen ovale closures
  • Calculating hemodynamic or physiologic values, and record waveforms for patient records
  • Retrieving and analyzing imaging and other data obtained during procedures

Similar cardiovascular technician roles include noninvasive cardiology and peripheral vascular sonography. Noninvasive cardiology technologists help perform echocardiography, electrocardiograms, stress tests, and other imaging exams for patients with cardiac disease. Peripheral vascular sonographers use noninvasive ultrasound equipment to record data on blood flow through the peripheral vasculature.

Specializations

Cardiovascular invasive specialists are specialized positions of cardiovascular technologists. There are no formal avenues of specialization for cardiovascular invasive specialists, but it is important to gain a deep understanding of many highly specialized procedures, particularly for roles at an institution that perform a wide variety of catheterization procedures. 

Cardiovascular invasive specialists who work in an electrophysiology laboratory typically become proficient with cryoablation, biplane X-rays, radiofrequency transseptal puncture, and cardiac stimulation protocols.

Work environment

Cardiovascular invasive specialists can be employed by hospitals, operating rooms, and medical and diagnostic labs. Positions can be full- or part-time, most often with weekend, holiday, or on-call shifts included.

Since emergency situations can arise while working with patients with cardiovascular disease, it is important for cardiovascular invasive specialists to perform well under pressure. During any procedure, it is critical to be able to prioritize multiple important responsibilities related to ensuring patient safety and correct procedure.

Becoming a cardiovascular invasive specialist

Important qualities for a successful cardiovascular invasive specialist include working well in teams, maintaining confidence under stress, quickly learning technical protocols, and interest in cardiac anatomy and physiology.

Many cardiovascular invasive specialists start working as a cardiovascular technologist to gain experience in cardiac and vascular monitoring and clinical practice.

Higher education requirements

After receiving a high school diploma, or the equivalent, the next step is to complete a cardiovascular technology training program. Cardiovascular technology training programs for becoming a cardiovascular invasive specialist can be found at community colleges, technical schools, teaching hospitals, and some four-year universities. Most will then complete a certification exam. 

The typical educational pathway to becoming a registered cardiovascular invasive specialist (RCIS) includes:

Many employers also require candidates to be certified in Basic Life Support (BLS) or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) either before accepting a position or within the first year of hire.

Career opportunities and outlook

Nationwide, there is a high need for cardiovascular invasive specialists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide median salary is $55,270 and the profession is expected to grow by 17% by the year 2026.

Most cardiovascular invasive specialists work in medical and surgical hospitals, but with experience, many may find opportunities in cardiology sales or as educational specialists training others on new equipment and techniques.

By the numbers

Cardiovascular invasive specialist programs at Mayo Clinic

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