Cardiothoracic Surgeon Education Requirements

Cardiothoracic surgeons have specialized training in operating on organs within the human chest cavity. Explore what you'd learn and practice in your general and specialized surgery residencies. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Could I Expect in a Cardiothoracic Surgeon Education?

Cardiothoracic surgery involves operating within the chest wall to improve the cardiac and respiratory systems. In addition to training in general thoracic surgery, your schedule may involve rotations in adult and pediatric cardiac surgery. Following your residency in general surgery, most traditional cardiothoracic programs follow a 2-year or 3-year path to completion. Your instruction may involve progressively complicated invasive and non-invasive surgeries. Your responsibility level as a member of the surgical team may increase, as well.

As you advance through your surgical education, you learn about the different diseases that affect the heart, lungs, diaphragm and other structures found in the thorax. Instruction may also include transplantations and repair of congenital and acquired heart, lung and thoracic diseases. Because you may work with additional surgical services on larger surgeries, instruction in medical communication may also be included as part of your training.

Training Areas Invasive surgery, non-invasive surgery, general thoracic surgery, medical communication, transplant and repair of organs
Prerequisites Graduation from a Liaison Committee on Medical Education-accredited school and state licensure
Procedures Learned Esophageal repair, transplants, vascular surgeries, tumor removal, cardiopulmonary bypass
Program Specializations Integrated programs combine general surgery and cardiothoracic training

Are There Any Prerequisites?

In order to pursue this career and enter a residency (graduate education) program, you would need to have graduated from a Liaison Committee on Medical Education-accredited medical school. Upon completion of training, successful completion of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination and receipt of state licensure is required to work as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

What Surgical Procedures Could I Perform During My Residency?

During your cardiothoracic residency, you learn how to perform a number of surgical procedures on the heart and respiratory systems, and thorax. The American Board of Thoracic Surgery requires surgeons to complete a certain number of operative procedures, between 250-375 major cases, depending on the length of your program. The following operations may be performed:

  • Removing tumors from the lungs
  • Esophageal repair
  • Repairing deformities of the chest
  • Vascular surgeries
  • Cardiopulmonary bypass
  • Transplants

What Is an Integrated Program?

If you recently graduated from medical school and have yet to apply, or be accepted, to a general surgery residency program, you may be able to complete your general surgery and cardiothoracic surgeon education requirements under an integrated program at the same university.

In an integrated 6-year program, your general surgery education and cardiothoracic training will be divided over six years. The exact breakdown may vary by program. Your cardiothoracic instruction will remain the same, and you'll complete the same rotations.

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