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Cardiothoracic surgery

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Cardiothoracic surgery is the medicine field that includes the surgical operation of diseases on organs inside the chest(thorax). Basically, cardiothoracic surgery treat the hearts' conditions and lungs as well. Only the USA, UK, and Australia group the thoracic surgery and cardiac surgery together as a surgical specialties. Therefore, the cardiothoracic surgeons in the USA, UK and Australia can have wider experience as a cardiac surgeon and as a thoracic surgeon. In order to be a cardiothoracic surgeon in those countries, a person has to graduate from the medical school and after graduation a person has to train another five years to obtain the certification. Therefore, at least 8 years are required in order to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. [1]

Cardiac surgeon

A picture of the cardiac surgery.

A cardiac surgeon is a physician who performs surgery of the heart and great vessels of the chest cavity. Today, lots of places, hospitals, demand for cardiac surgeons because world population keeps increasing. While the world population keeps increasing, the heart diseases keep enlarging and at the same time, many cardiac surgeons approach their retirement. Due to the long work hours, many people prefer to be other field of surgeons. Also, the cardiac surgeon is well known for the complicated surgery because it is about the heart. Cardiac surgeons perform the surgery of valvular heart diseases which are valve stenosis or vessel insufficiency, ischemic heart disease, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis and congenital defects. After performing the surgery of these diseases, the cardiac surgeon obtains the responsibility for their patients while their patients are in hospital. In order to be a cardiac surgeon, people must take myriad steps to accomplish their goals. First, people must have a diploma of four years of medical or osteopath school. Second, they must have five years of residency program in general surgery and several years of experience in cardiac surgery programs. Therefore, five to seven years of training is required in order to be a cardiac surgeon. Furthermore, to be a pediatric cardiac surgeon or heart transplantation surgeon requires the another additional training as well. Not only many years of training is required but also the licence is required. A cardiac surgeon must have licence by surgeon's state medical board. Also, the surgeon must pass the board certification exam in order to obtain the licence. Once the surgeon passes the board certification exam, the surgeon must take a medical education requirement every year to keep the licence. [2]

Types of Cardiac surgery

  • Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

The cardiac surgeons operate on all kinds of coronary artery bypass grafting, which is taking off healthy arteries or veins and then adhering them to the coronary artery. By performing this operation, the patient can have a healthy blood supply to the heart.

  • Valve surgery

The valve surgery obtains the options from the heart and vascular centers to repair valve. There are two types of valve surgeries which are traditional open surgery and a minimally invasive approach for mitral, aortic and tricuspid valves. The less invasive approach surgery only demand two tiny dissections which are about two to three inches on the right chest and a 1.5 to 2 inches in the groin.

  • Aortic surgery

Aneurysm in the aorta is really dangerous for people's lives. Basically, there are three ways of performing aortic surgery, traditional surgery, valve sparing aortic root surgery, and thoracic aortic endografting.

  • Arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation) surgery

In order to perform the arrhythmia surgery, a high quality of skill and experience are required. Atrial fibrillation is the most typical arrhythmia. Approximately 33% of strokes are seen in senior adults.

  • Heart failure and transplant surgery

Heart transplant surgery is an easy operation for a cardiac surgeon. The heart transplant surgery not only offers a patients healthy heart but also offers the care after the operation.

  • Minimally invasive heart surgery

Conventionally, most of cardiac surgeries have been operated with a large incision through the sternum in order to reach the heart more safely. But, since minimally invasive heart surgery have been developed, cardiac surgeons can perform the cardiac surgeries with a tiny incisions. Of course, the minimally invasive heart surgery has provides a countless benefits both to surgeons and to patients. Benefits are smaller incision, which makes patients more relieve, less pain, minimal blood loss, less demand for transfusion, less risk for infection, faster cure process, and shorter hospital day. Also, minimally invasive heart surgery can be used in so many surgeries which are coronary bypass surgery, ASD/PFO closure, atrial fibrillation ablation, mitral valve surgery, and aortic valve surgery.

  • Surgery for adult with congenital heart disease

Approximately 10% of people are born with the heart diseases, congenital heart disease or CHD. Even though the 10% of people are born with heart diseases, they get proper surgery during their childhood. People who have a cardiac surgery during their childhood need the constant diagnosis from their doctor, even though they have proper surgery. [3]

Thoracic surgeon

A picture of the Thoracic surgery.

A thoracic surgeon performs all kind of operations for the organs in the chest such as heart, lungs, and esophagus. In order to be a thoracic surgeon, person has to graduate from medical university and has to obtain five-years of general surgery residency. After getting the five years of general surgery residency, a person has to choose to study more about hearts. But additional training is definitely optional except the congenital heart surgery. Thoracic surgeons treat the organs in the chest, in the body structures, and tissues that operate the chest cavity. Cardiac and cardiovascular surgeons mainly deal with coronary artery disease. Lung cancer and diseases of esophagus are treated by general thoracic surgeons. Also, congenital heart surgeons mainly focus on children who have a hole between the heart chambers and abnormal connections with the heart.

A cardiac and cardiothoracic surgeon can have an operation on :

  • Heart failure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Leaking heart valves
  • Blockages in one of the heart valves
  • Coronary artery diseases
  • Blockages of the arteries in the heart

A general thoracic surgeon can have an operation on :

  • Lung cancer
  • Cancers in esophagus
  • Hiatal hernias
  • Achalasia (swallowing disorder)
  • Hyperhydrosis
  • Severe emphysema

A congenital heart surgeon can have an operation on :

  • Atrial septal defects
  • Ventricular septal defects
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Hypoplastic left or right heart syndrome
  • Transposition of the great arteries[4]

Difference between Thoracic surgeon and cardiothoracic surgeon

All kinds of thoracic surgeons are required all same training but a congenital heart surgeon requires more training. In order to be a congenital heart surgeon, a person needs special certificate in addition to the ABTS certification. A cardiac or cardiovascular surgeon studies about the heart and great vessels. General thoracic surgeons perform operations on the lungs, esophagus, chest wall, and mediastinum. Congenital surgeon focuses on infants and young people's heart diseases. Lastly, cardiothoracic surgeon is a general term for all kinds of thoracic surgeons and this term is used to depict the specialty of the specific area of expertise.[4]


Heart Valve Surgery


  1. Cardiothoracic surgery. Wikipedia. Web. access on 17 November, 2011. Wikipedia.
  2. Cardiac Surgeon Job Description. Ehow Contributor. Web. access on 3 November, 2011. Unknown author.
  3. Types of Cardiac surgery. Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin . Web. access on 3 November, 2011. Fraunfelder Marla.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Information of thoracic surgeon. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Web. access on 17 November, 2011.