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Cardiothoracic Surgery Specialist Doctor

For patients who have severe heart and lung diseases, medicine consumption is sometimes not enough. Medical procedures such as surgery or operations are performed as an effort to help the patient recover. The expertise of a thoracic and cardiovascular (cardiothoracic) surgeon is required to perform such surgical procedures.

A cardiothoracic surgeon is a specialist doctor that focuses on studying health problems related to organs in the chest cavity, especially in the heart and lungs. As the name implies, this specialist doctor treats various health problems in the chest and heart area with surgical methods.

Given the extreme risks and possible complications in treating lung and heart related diseases, cardiothoracic surgeons also work closely with other specialists such as cardiologists, pulmonologists and internal medicine physicians or internists.

It is important to note that there are differences between a cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon. Cardiologists generally provide non-surgical medical procedures such as catheterization, angioplasty, stent placement, and so on.

In certain conditions, if the use of coronary stents or stent placement cannot be done, the cardiologist will refer the patient to a cardiothoracic surgeon to undergo a surgery. Even so, both specialist doctors generally work together to provide proper treatment for patients.

In addition, cardiothoracic surgery is suitable for treating injury to the heart, chest wall, oesophagus, and lungs. Other medical problems that can be treated by a cardiothoracic surgeon include heart valve regurgitation, aortic valve stenosis, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure.

Sub-specialties of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Cardiothoracic surgeons have a relatively broad scope of work when it comes to treating problems related to organs in the chest cavity. For this reason, there are several sub-specialties within the field of cardiothoracic surgery, namely:

  • General cardiac surgery, a sub-specialty that focuses on dealing with surgery related to heart problems suffered by adult patients. Some cases that can be handled include heart valve disease, heart failure, and coronary heart disease.
  • Chest surgery, a sub-specialty that focuses on dealing with surgery in the chest area including the lungs, oesophagus, diaphragm, or even chest wall.
  • Congenital heart defect surgery, a sub-specialty that focuses on dealing with surgery for congenital heart disease, which plagues infants or babies. Some of the diseases that are treated include coarctation of the aorta, transposition of the great arteries, structural abnormalities in atrial walls, and hypoplastic syndrome.

Cardiothoracic surgeons are now also studying the transplantation of heart and lung organs that are still in the chest area.

Diseases That Can Be Treated by Cardiothoracic Surgeons

Cardiothoracic surgeons focus on treating medical complaints in the chest area as well as the chest cavity, which serve as the protector of the lungs and heart.

The following are several health disorders or conditions that can be treated by a cardiothoracic surgeon through a surgical procedure:

  • Hiatal hernia.
  • Oesophageal cancer.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Congenital heart disease.
  • Swallowing disorders (achalasia).
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Sudden heart failure (cardiogenic shock).
  • Severe emphysema, damage to the alveolar sac of the lung organs.
  • Cardiac emergencies and heart attack that requires surgery.
  • Lump or aortic aneurysm
  • Tear or injury to the chest wall or lung tissue that causes air trapping in the pleural cavity (pneumothorax).
  • Heart valve disease, a condition that is characterized by difficulty in the flow of blood from or to the heart chambers as well as blood vessels, which is caused by heart valve defects.
  • Cardiac tamponade, a medical condition that occurs due to accumulation of blood and fluids in the pericardium space and causes blockage of blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body.
  • Cardiac tamponade, an emergency situation that requires immediate medical action
  • Cardiomyopathy or weakened heart, an abnormality found in the heart muscle (myocardium) both in structure and function. This disease is divided into primary and secondary cardiomyopathy.

Medical Procedures That Can Be Performed by Cardiothoracic Surgeons

In order to determine the surgery type that suits the patient’s needs, a cardiothoracic surgeon needs to carry out a series of tests such as a physical examination and other supporting examinations.

If possible, a cardiothoracic surgeon also traces the patient’s medical history and conducts medical interviews to support the final diagnosis. Several supporting tests such as chest x-rays, CT scans, MRI, angiography, blood tests, urine tests, echocardiography, heart biopsy, to Doppler ultrasound can be conducted to clarify the patient’s condition before undergoing surgery.

From those series of examinations, the cardiothoracic surgeon will determine the most suitable and appropriate surgical method to restore the organ functions in the chest area. The specialist doctor can also provide non-surgical treatment by prescribing medications and making lifestyle recommendations.

Cardiothoracic surgeons can perform both large-incision and minimally invasive surgery. Advanced developments in technology have made it possible to perform minimally invasive surgery with a faster postoperative recovery period and minimal risk. Surgical procedures performed by cardiothoracic surgeons include:

  • Cardiac catheterization procedure.
  • Heart valve surgery procedures.
  • Heart or lung transplant.
  • Pacemaker insertion
  • Removal of cysts, cancer, or lung tumors
  • Surgical treatment of chest wall deformities.
  • Surgical procedures on the lungs such as pneumonectomy, lobectomy or wedge resection.
  • Coronary angioplasty procedure
  • Cardiac vascular surgical procedures, which include coronary artery bypass graft and aortic surgery.

When to See a Cardiothoracic Surgeon? 

Considering how important the organs in the chest cavity are – such as the heart and lungs – emergency conditions that affect these two organs must be handled quickly and precisely, especially in cases of cardiac injury or heart attack.

Patients with chronic heart and lung diseases that require surgery can also get referrals from cardiologists, pulmonologists, general practitioners, and internal medicine specialists.

In addition, you are advised to consult your doctor immediately if you experience the following symptoms, especially if they do not seem to go away. Several of the symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest area.
  • Cold sweats with no apparent reason.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Racing heartbeat without strenuous physical activity.
  • Pain in the chest, jaw, neck, shoulders, and back

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