What is a cardiac surgeon?
A cardiac surgeon is also known as a cardiothoracic surgeon or cardiovascular surgeon. The cardiac surgeon is a doctor who specializes in surgical procedures on the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs of the chest. This includes surgeons called cardiac surgeons, cardiovascular surgeons, general thoracic surgeons, and congenital cardiac surgeons.
Cardiac surgery is the specialty of medicine for the surgical treatment of pathologies of the heart and thoracic aorta. The spectrum of modern heart surgery can be understood through its late 19th-century history. Since then, cardiac surgery has evolved thanks to the work of many dedicated cardiac surgeons offering even more treatments for different heart conditions. This development continues to this day.
Most of the time, the diagnosis of heart disease begins with your primary care physician, who will refer you to a cardiologist. If your cardiologist decides that you need surgery, he or she will refer you to a heart surgeon who will be a new member of your heart health team.
What does a cardiac surgeon do?
Cardiac surgeons play an important role in the health care team. They work on diseases that occur in the organs within the chest and in the skeletal structures and tissues that make up the chest cavity.
The diagnosis of heart disease begins with the patient’s primary care physician, who then refers the patient to a cardiologist. If your cardiologist decides that you need surgery, he or she will refer you to a cardiothoracic surgeon who will be a new member of your heart health team.
Cardiac surgeons work on diseases that occur in the organs within the chest and in the skeletal structures and tissues that make up the chest cavity.
Difference between a cardiologist and cardiac surgeons
The cardiologist has completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiology. They specialize in the medical or endovascular treatment of heart problems. The cardiac surgeons have completed the general surgical residency and the cardiothoracic fellowship. They specialize in the surgical treatment of cardiac and pulmonary cysts and other intrathoracic problems.
The cardiologist generally evaluates patients with heart problems, manages heart failure, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, and can perform echocardiography and endovascular work such as cardiac catheterization and stenting.
The cardiac surgeons remove lungs and other intrathoracic tumors, replace or repair heart valves, and perform other intrathoracic surgical procedures, including bypass grafts and aneurysm repair.
Types of cardiac surgeries
Common types of cardiac surgeries are:
- Catheter ablation: This procedure uses radio waves or coagulation to silence an abnormal area of the cardiovascular system. The abnormal area is often found during the electrophysiology study. This procedure breaks the problematic electrical circuit that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
- Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG): In CABG, the most common heart surgery, the surgeon takes a healthy artery or vein from other parts of the body and connects it to supply blood past the blocked coronary artery. The grafted artery or vein bypasses the blocked part of the coronary artery, creating a new path for blood to flow to the heart muscle. This often happens in more than one coronary artery during a single surgery. CABG is sometimes called heart bypass surgery or coronary artery bypass surgery.
- Heart transplant: A surgical option to treat advanced heart failure, a condition that occurs when the heart cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the needs of the body’s organs.
- Heart valve replacement: Heart valve surgery and procedures are performed to repair or replace a heart valve that is not working properly due to valvular heart disease (also known as heart valve disease). Heart valve surgery is open-heart surgery in the chest, through the breastbone. It is a major operation that takes two hours or more and can take several weeks to recover. There are newer and less invasive procedures suitable for certain types of heart valve disease, but they are only performed in a few hospitals.
- Insertion of a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): Pacemakers and implantable cardiovascular defibrillators (ICD) are small devices that feed the heart through thin, flexible wires called leads. They are placed under the skin, under the collarbone. In most cases, we can place the devices on a patient with minimally invasive techniques (overnight or overnight).
- Congenital heart surgery: Corrective surgery to correct or treat a genetic heart defect.
- Valve surgery: Heart valve surgery is open-heart surgery to replace or repair one of the four heart valves. Heart valves regulate one-way blood flow through the four chambers of your heart. Think of them as doors that open and close to allow blood to pass through.
- Mycctomy/myotomy: This is an operation that surgically removes a thickened wall of the heart. It is used when medications can no longer control the symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
The procedure of cardiac surgeon
Special tubes with a deflated balloon attached to the coronary arteries are threaded. The balloon is inflated to expand blocked areas where blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced or cut off. Often combined with the placement of a stent (see below), it helps open the artery and reduces the chance of another blockage. The body is considered less aggressive because it is not kept open. It ranges from 30 minutes to several hours. You need to stay in the hospital overnight.
Reasons for the procedure are:
- Hugely increases blood flow through the blocked artery.
- Decreases chest pain (angina).
- Increases the strength of physical activity that has been restricted by angina or ischemia.
- It can also be used to open the jugular and cerebral arteries to prevent stroke.
Future of cardiac surgeon
The future of cardiac surgery will have the potential to improve surgical techniques, innovate treatments, and diversify practice. However, personal development and education often stop slowly or completely after completing the training due to the reluctance of some experienced students to learn new techniques.
Cardiac surgeons must challenge this archetype by enhancing cardiac surgical residency through training methods and expanding clinical skill sets in open, minimally invasive, and percutaneous techniques, simulation training, and recruiting the best and brightest young practitioners. Cardiac surgeons must retrain, stay on the cutting edge of technological advancements, actively participate in future research, and continue to thrive in the ever-changing field of cardiac surgeons.