How to Become a Cardiothoracic Surgeon
You will need:
- to study a premedical degree (4 years) then
- study another 4 years at medical school followed by
- a 5-year general surgery residency, and after that
- a 2-year cardiothoracic surgery residency
After that you may also want to do further fellowships. It is a competitive residency, so you will have to have to do very well in medical school to be selected.
The cardiothoracic surgeon salary:
A cardiothoracic surgeon’s salary in private practice is up to $500,000 or more per year depending on how much you choose to work, of course. Cardiothoracic surgery is not for the faint-of-heart. Long years of training, long hours of working, studying, and long hours of surgery requiring intense focus both during residency as well as during your years of practicing as a cardiothoracic surgeon. Cardiothoracic surgeon salary = $500,000+ per year.
What is cardiothoracic surgery?
Cardiac surgery involves surgery to the heart and large blood vessels.
Thoracic surgery involves surgery to the lungs and any other structures within the chest cavity.
Cardiac and thoracic surgery are separate surgical specialties in some countries while in other countries, like the USA and the UK, they are usually grouped together.
Watch this video of a cardiothoracic surgeon opening up a patient’s chest cavity:
The heart has intrigued mankind throughout history, ascribing to the heart a number of mystical and spiritual attributes, the heart has always occupied a place as an organ in the human body elevated above all the other organs. To some extent rightly so as the heart (like the brain) is a vital organ. If the heart stops functioning, the person will soon lose consciousness and will die within minutes without medical intervention. In the early days of surgery, it was very difficult to perform surgery on the heart. There was a high mortality (death rate), but two advances in surgery changed that dramatically:
The development of the heart-lung machine – a medical apparatus that can take over the functions of the heart for a number of hours (operated by a perfusionist) giving the heart surgeon hours of time to operate on the heart with very little or no bleeding.
The development of mechanisms to cool down the temperature of the heart during the surgical procedure – giving the cardiac surgeon extra hours to perform quality surgery on a motionless heart, and then warming the heart again and “restarting” the pumping functions of the heart.
The following is a quote from one of the pioneers in the field of cardiothoracic surgery. Nicholas T. Kouchoukos, M.D. “If you are a student or resident with intelligence, drive, and stamina, who loves challenges, hard work and positive outcomes, who is results-oriented, loves working with your hands as well as your brain, and enjoys caring for others and interacting with highly competent physicians and other health care professionals, you should strongly consider becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon.”
Best wishes for your success!
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Filed under: For Future Doctors