Thoracic surgeons – who are often grouped with cardiac or heart, specialists for cardiothoracic surgery — operate on the heart, lungs, esophagus, and major blood vessels inside the chest, as well as the bony structures and tissues that form and support the chest cavity.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing one person every 36 seconds. Experts estimate that someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Lung cancer is the third most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death for men and women. These numbers highlight the importance of cardiac care and thoracic surgery.
What Does a Thoracic Surgeon Do?
Thoracic surgeons specialize in dealing with diseases or injuries to the structures inside your chest, including your:
Thoracic surgeons oversee related operations, managing treatment plans before, during, and after the procedure. They often build strong relationships with patients and their families, especially in emergencies like heart attacks.
What Conditions Does a Thoracic Surgeon Treat?
Thoracic surgeons treat a variety of disorders, such as:
Thoracic surgeons mainly treat lung cancer, lung disease, and diseases in the esophagus and chest wall. Cardiothoracic surgeons, by contrast, operate on more conditions in organs in the chest and the chest cavity.
Education and Training
A thoracic surgery certification requires years of education and training, including:
Residency options vary, and doctors then choose a thoracic surgery subspecialty, such as:
The length of a surgeon’s residency depends on the medical school and residency program. Specialty training may last 6 to 8 years before a thoracic surgeon gets their certification.
Reasons to See a Thoracic Surgeon
In most cases, your primary care doctor will refer you to a thoracic surgeon if you have an illness or condition that requires chest surgery. You may notice symptoms like:
Severe chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations can all be signs of a heart attack. If these symptoms come on suddenly, call 911.
What to Expect at the Thoracic Surgeon
You’ll start with a consultation where your surgeon reviews your medical records and medical history. You can expect:
It’s normal to be stressed over the idea of surgery. But your surgeon is trained to work with you and guide you and your loved ones through the process.