Cardiothoracic surgeon

What they do

A cardiothoracic surgeon is a specialist who surgically treats diseases affecting the organs in the chest, predominantly the heart, lungs and oesophagus.

Cardiothoracic surgeons work closely with other medical professionals to treat life-threatening diseases such as heart failure, lung cancer, endocarditis, congenital heart defects, and pulmonary embolisms. They also perform heart and lung transplants and coronary bypass surgeries.

There are currently less than 15 cardiothoracic surgeons in Western Australia, all of whom work in the Perth metropolitan area.

Working conditions

Cardiothoracic surgeons work in public and private hospitals as surgical specialists. They also may supervise and teach medical students. They may be required to work long shifts, odd hours and weekends. They may be required to be on-call in case of an emergency.

Cardiothoracic surgeons may have to operate for long periods at a time. They operate in completely sterile theatre rooms and must wear protective clothing.

Tools and technologies

Cardiothoracic surgeons use a range of specialised surgical instruments when operating including scalpels, clamps, retractors, forceps and cardiopulmonary bypass machines.

Outside of the operating theatre, cardiothoracic surgeons use technologies such as angiographs, X-rays, echocardiograms, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) scans to assist in planning appropriate courses of action and to follow up after surgery.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a cardiothoracic surgeon, you must first become a qualified doctor and then specialise in cardiothoracic surgery.

To become a medical practitioner, you need to study a degree in medicine. Alternatively, you can study a degree in any discipline followed by a postgraduate degree in medicine.

Some universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

To then specialise in cardiothoracic surgery, you must register with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and undergo a training program at accredited hospitals, and ultimately receive fellowship.

To be eligible for this specialist training, on completion of your medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for a minimum of two years (internship and residency).

Required registration and licensing

To work as a cardiothoracic surgeon in Western Australia, you will need to obtain registration from the Medical Board of Australia.

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