What is a Thoracic Surgeon?
A thoracic surgeon is a physician that performs surgical procedures on the organs, tissues, and structures of the chest to include the chest wall, heart, lungs, esophagus, diaphragm and mediastinum. Thoracic surgeons may be referred to as cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiovascular surgeons, thoracic surgical oncologists, general thoracic surgeons, and congenital heart surgeons.

Are there different kinds of Thoracic Surgeons?
All board certified thoracic surgeons have the same general training and are certified by the same primary specialty board, American Board of Thoracic Surgery (ABTS). Cardiothoracic surgeon is the most inclusive term used to describe the specialty and may be used interchangeably with the term thoracic surgeon.  Some surgeons choose to focus their clinical practice in specific areas of thoracic surgery and may be referred to differently. A cardiac or cardiovascular surgeon will focus on the heart and great vessels. A thoracic surgical oncologist / general thoracic surgeon treats and operates on diseases of the chest wall, lungs, esophagus, diaphragm and mediastinum. Congenital heart surgeons treat infants and children with heart disease.

What training is required for a Thoracic Surgeon?
Thoracic surgeons must graduate from an accredited medical school and commonly will go on to complete an initial accredited five-year general surgery residency.  Afterwards, they must then successfully matriculate through an approved cardiothoracic (cardiovascular and thoracic surgery) surgical residency training program for a minimum of two to three years. Some thoracic surgeons may choose to receive additional or advanced training in a specialized area of practice.

What does it mean to be a board certified Thoracic Surgeon?
The American Board of Thoracic Surgery (ABTS) maintains standards for the practice of thoracic surgery in the public interest. Thoracic surgeons who have completed approved residency training, hold a full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States, and maintain an ethical standing in the profession are eligible for board certification. Candidates must then pass both a written examination that is designed to test a broad range of knowledge in all areas of thoracic surgery. Upon successful completion of the written or qualifying examination, candidates are eligible for and must pass an oral or certifying examination that tests knowledge, judgment and the integration of these skills in clinical practice. Once successful in these pursuits, a thoracic surgeon is “board certified”. In order to keep this certification, the maintenance of certification process is required to demonstrate lifelong learning throughout the thoracic surgeons’ career.

~adapted from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons www.sts.org