Cardiac surgeons treat valvular heart diseases such as valve stenosis or vessel insufficiency, ischemic heart disease, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis and congenital defects. They treat these diseases by repairing or replacing heart valves, widen clogged arteries, repair aortic aneurysms, implant defibrillators and pacemakers, and perform double, triple, quadruple, and sometimes even quintuple heart bypasses. Cardiac surgeons must complete internships and residency requirements.
Cardiac surgeons should also be detail-oriented, well-organized, and steady-handed, since their work involves often sensitive and sometimes risky incisions and other surgical procedures. A cardiac surgeon must complete four years of medical or osteopath school, a five-year residency program in general surgery and a two- or three-year fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery. Cardiac surgeons also must have a thorough understanding of anatomy, particularly that of the heart and circulatory system, as well biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology and other disciplines.
A cardiac surgeon must be licensed by her state medical board to practice medicine. The physician must pass a board-certification examination in practice general surgery and a separate board-certification examination in cardiac surgery. Cardiac surgeons must complete yearly continuing medical education requirements to maintain licensure. BLS notes the surgeon works in a well-lit, sterile environment. In the operating room, the heart surgeon gives instructions to all surgical personnel.
The pressure of being in charge of the surgery requires the surgeon to manage well in a highly stressful, life-or-death situation. Many cardiothoracic surgeon enjoy their work because they gain a great satisfaction from saving the lives of patients. However, when surgical treatments for the patient fails, a great emotional toll can be placed on the cardiothoracic surgeon. Cardiac surgeons are expected to be in particular demand in less populated rural areas within the US.
The majority of cardiac surgeons are employed by hospitals or medical centers, however some may set up their own practices, and will perform surgeries and routine checkups on heart patients. Cardiac surgeons are amongst the most highly paid medical staff, and the salary depends on experience. Surgeons with less than one year of experience earn $100,000 upwards, while those with up to 4 years of experience earn between $120,000 and $300,000. The most experienced cardiac surgeons will earn anything between $200,000 and $500,000, with the majority earning an average salary of $400,000.
The salary of a cardiac surgeon also depends on location, with those in larger cities earning more. The majority of their income is paid as a salary, with up to 20% being made up in commissions, bonuses, and profit sharing. The job prospects for heart surgeons are extremely good, as this field of expertise is expected to be in demand for the foreseeable future, especially as some heart problems can be caused by obesity and lifestyle which is a continuing problem for the developed world.