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:

    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. 

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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