Cardiac surgeons are highly specialized surgeons trained to treat disorders affecting the heart. These specialists are capable of performing the most complex surgeries on the heart.

Watch an Overview of Cardiac & Thoracic Surgery

About Cardiac Surgery

Cardiac surgeons, also casually referred to as heart surgeons, are specialized surgeons trained in the surgical reparation of the heart and related structures. Heart surgeons have completed demanding academic and training requirements in order to provide care. These surgeons are trained to perform complex procedures that may save or a patient’s life.

One of the most common procedures performed by cardiac surgeons is coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), which is a procedure to bypass the area of the coronary artery that has been blocked. During this procedure, a healthy portion of vein or artery from the patient’s body is grafted to the blocked heart artery, allowing the blood to flow to the heart. Additionally, CABG procedures can relieve chest pressure and pain, as well as reducing the patient’s risk of a heart attack.

Additional procedures performed by cardiac surgeons include the reparation of damaged heart structures, the replacement or reparation of heart valves, complete heart transplants, implantation of pacemakers, defibrillators or stents, angioplasty procedures (opening blocked arteries), atherectomy procedures (akin to angioplasty, except it also removes plaque), cardiomyoplasty procedures and many others.

Cardiac Surgery Education & Training

Following the completion of a pre-med undergraduate degree, cardiac surgeons are required to attend an accredited medical school and earn an MD or DO degree. A five year general surgery residency subjects students to a wide variety of surgical techniques and skills, normally focusing on cardiac surgery in the middle years of the residency.

Cardiac surgeons are then made to complete a further two to three years in a cardiac surgery fellowship in which advanced techniques in heart surgery are ascertained and refined. Certification from the American Board of Thoracic Surgery is the final step for physicians before officially having the title of cardiac surgeon.

After receiving certification in the field of cardiac surgery, doctors now must pass a rigorous license exam which allows them to practice medicine in the state of their choosing. The ultimate goal of every cardiac surgeon is, upon becoming an experienced master of their craft, is to join the American College of Cardiology and be nominated as a Fellow of the America College of Cardiology.