Health Blog

Cardiothoracic Surgeons: The Heart Specialists


Definition and Overview

Cardiac Surgery, also known as cardiothoracic & Vascular surgery, is a speciality dealing with surgical procedures performed by cardiac/cardiothoracic surgeons, on the heart or the blood vessels. The main purpose of cardiac surgery is to improve the quality of life of the patient and to extend the patient’s lifespan. Cardiac surgery involves substantial risks. These risks increase with age and when the individual has other health problems like diabetes, chronic kidney failure, chronic lung disease, etc. The most common types of surgeries performed by cardiac surgeons are :-

  • Open-heart surgery
  • Modern beating-heart surgery
  • Heart transplant
  • Minimally invasive Cardiac surgery

What Does a Cardiothoracic Surgeon Do?

A Cardiothoracic Surgeon plays a vital role in the healthcare team. They operate to treat diseases/complications that arise in the organs inside the chest cavity, especially the heart and the lungs. They start by diagnosing chest / heart diseases by performing an extensive examination of the patient’s body and a series of tests to diagnose the disease that you may be suffering from. Post-test results and examination, the surgeon decides whether a surgical procedure needs to be performed.

After the surgery, a cardiothoracic surgeon is also responsible to monitor patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU); although cardiac surgery is very safe, complications may occur in few cases, including arrhythmias (irregular heart-beats), stroke, post-operative bleeding, collection of fluid around the lungs, infection, or thrombosis.

What are the diseases treated by a Cardiothoracic Surgeon?

A cardiothoracic surgeon may treat the following:-

  • Ischemic heart disease including heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • Conduction heart blocks
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Blockages in the heart valve
  • Leaking heart valve
  • Abnormal enlargement or aneurysms of the large arteries in the chest
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmias eg. Atrial fibrillation
  • Hypertension i.e. raised blood pressure

If you are suffering from any of the above complications, search for a “cardiac surgeon near me” and consult one immediately.

Other Common Procedures Performed by a Cardiothoracic Surgeon –

  • CABG (coronary artery bypass grafting) with & without cardiopulmonary bypass machine
  • Minimal Aortic Valve Replacement (Biological Valve/ Mechanical Valve)
  • Minimal Mitral Valve Replacement
  • ASD (atrial septal defect) Closure
  • VSD (ventricular septal defect) Closure
  • TOF (Tetralogy of Fallot) Repair
  • Aortic Dissection Repair
  • Mitral Valve repair
  • Aortic Valve Repair
  • Thromboembolectomy

What are the Possible Risks and Complications of Cardiac Surgery?

Surgeries always carry risks and complications. The major threat to the patient’s body is of infection and excessive bleeding, although these two can be minimized by minimally invasive surgeries. In cases of transplantation, the greatest risk is rejection. When this happens, the body attacks the new/foreign organ until it also fails. Thus, the surgeons provide medications and some precautionary measures that should be taken on a regular basis in order to decrease the complications rate after transplantation or open-heart surgery.

Education and Training Required to Become a Certified Cardiac Surgeon

The path to becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon is difficult and long, but rewarding. Most students endeavoring to become a cardiothoracic surgeon follow the road that starts by spending five and a half years in graduation(M.B.B.S.) from a medical college, followed by three years at post-graduation in general surgery, along with a super specialization of 3 years in Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery.