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Health Care Providers: Cardiothoracic Surgeons

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What Is Cardiothoracic Surgery?

Cardiothoracic (kar-dee-oh-theh-RA-sik) surgery is the surgical specialty that treats diseases and problems of the heart and chest with surgery.

What Is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon?

A cardiothoracic surgeon is a doctor who does surgery to treat problems that affect the heart and chest.

Why Would Someone Need One?

Cardiothoracic surgeons diagnose and treat:

  • heart problems that are present at birth
  • heart problems that develop later in life
  • problems with heart valves
  • arrhythmias
  • aneurysms
  • cancers in the chest 

They do many different medical procedures, including:

  • surgery to fix heart problems or valve problems
  • surgery to fix an aneurysm
  • echocardiograms
  • EKGs

What Is Their Training?

Cardiothoracic surgeon training includes:

  • 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
  • 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
  • 4–5 years of a general surgery residency then 2–3 years of cardiothoracic surgery residency or a 6-year cardiothoracic surgery residency

They also might do a fellowship in a subspecialty such as pediatric or transplant cardiothoracic surgery or cardiac surgery. A “fellow” is a doctor who undergoes more specialty training after completing medical school and a residency.

Good to Know

Cardiothoracic surgeons diagnose and treat problems in all organs of the chest including the lungs, esophagus, and heart. Cardiac surgeons get extra training in a fellowship and focus on problems of the heart. 

Date reviewed: September 2022