Cardiothoracic surgeons are trained to perform surgeries to correct disorders affecting the organs of the chest and thorax, including the heart, lungs and related structures.

Watch an Overview of Cardiac & Thoracic Surgery

About Cardiothoracic Surgery

Cardiothoracic surgeons are highly specialized physicians who have undergone training general surgery before completing an advanced cardiothoracic (the heart and organs of the thorax) fellowship. These highly trained surgeons are capable of providing advanced surgical procedures and performing techniques that are both invasive and minimally invasive in nature. Cardiothoracic surgeons are trained in the preoperative diagnosis and evaluation, surgical reparation, and post-surgical management of nearly every thoracic and cardiac disorders or conditions.

Many cardiothoracic surgeons are trained to utilize advanced surgical techniques when providing care, including the use of robot-assisted surgical procedures. By utilizing robotic-assisted techniques, such as video- or robotic-assisted thoracic surgery (known as VATS and RATS. respectively), cardiothoracic surgeons are able to provide patients with a less-invasive procedures. Benefits of video- or robotic-assisted surgeries include less pain and blood loss, in addition to less stress on the body. This allows for a quicker recovery time and in turn, a shorter stay in the hospital.

Cardiothoracic surgeons are capable of treating some of the most complex conditions affecting the heart, lungs and structures of the thorax. These include conditions affecting the heart such as aortic aneurysms, heart defects, congenital heart defects, heart valve disease, atrial fibrillation, heart failure and congenital heart disease, among others. Additionally, cardiothoracic surgeons are capable performing operations on the thorax including the surgical removal of malignant tumors, repair of deformities in the chest wall or related structures, procedures to treat esophageal diseases and lung volume reduction surgeries, among many others. These highly trained surgeons are capable of treating any condition that affects any of the organs or structures related to the heart, lungs and chest.

Cardiothoracic Surgery Education & Training

Cardiothoracic surgeons are made to complete many years of study before earning their title. After 4 years of college and receiving a Bachelor’s degree, four more years of medical school follow to earn an MD or DO title. Following medical school, they undergo a five-year residency in general surgery in which they work in all facets of surgery over the course of their five year study.

After a general surgery residency is completed, cardiothoracic surgeons also complete a two to three year cardiothoracic residency in which experience, technical ability and judgment in general thoracic surgery is gained. Additional education in the form of a fellowship is also available for cardiothoracic surgeons wishing to further focus their specialties, such as in heart transplantation or lung disorders.

After completing many years of training and study, cardiothoracic surgeons are then eligible to apply to the American Board of Surgery (ABS) and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery (ABTS) for certification.