How to Become a Cardiothoracic Surgeon

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Cardiothoracic surgery is a medical discipline that involves surgical procedures to treat conditions and diseases inside the chest. Cardiothoracic surgeons are specially trained medical doctors that are experts in performing a variety of surgical procedures involving the chest organs and blood vessels.


Hey, I'm Joshua T. Osborne

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What does a cardiothoracic surgeon do?

Cardiothoracic surgeons provide expert surgical management to the heart, major blood vessels of the chest cavity, esophagus, and lungs. They often work with patients with birth defects, heart disease, lung cancer, and other conditions. They assess the patient’s condition, conduct diagnostic tests, consult patients and other medical personnel, and perform the necessary procedure to provide the best treatment possible. They use a variety precision tools and equipment to perform delicate procedures. Cardiothoracic surgeons are also involved in intense research to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of many cardiothoracic conditions.

What kind of training does a cardiothoracic surgeon need?

Cardiothoracic surgeons must complete an undergraduate program, medical school, residency in general surgery, and additional training in cardiothoracic surgery. Medical school typically consists of basic sciences, clinical medicine, instruction of all major clinical disciplines, and clinical rotations through a variety of medical disciplines. Most prospective cardiothoracic surgeons complete internships and fellowships in cardiothoracic surgery along with additional research experience. Some specialize in a specific area such as lung and esophageal disorders, pediatric heart surgery, and heart transplantation. All states require cardiothoracic surgeons to be licensed. Most also become board certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. Cardiothoracic surgeons must stay up to date on the current advancements in the field and often complete continuing education and participate in conferences and seminars.

What are the prospects for a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon?

Employment of all surgeons is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing rates of heart disease and lung cancer will create a higher demand for cardiothoracic surgeons.

Job prospects are expected to be very good especially for cardiothoracic surgeons with specialties and extensive experience. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace cardiothoracic surgeons that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do cardiothoracic surgeons make?

As of November 2009, the middle 50% or cardiothoracic surgeons earn annual salaries between $319,452 and $576,936. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $700,760 (2).

A career as a cardiothoracic surgeon is an excellent choice for individuals interested in caring for patients with conditions related to inside the chest cavity. Cardiothoracic surgeons must have thorough knowledge of cardiothoracic conditions and be able to perform a variety of procedures. They must have excellent bedside manner, dedication, motivation, and the drive to pursue a lifetime of learning. They must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and ability to work as part of a team. They must also have great problem solving skills and be able to make quick decisions in emergency situations.

Joshua T Osborne

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