What does a Heart Surgeon do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2018
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A heart surgeon performs surgery on the primary blood vessels, such as the aorta, along with the heart. These medical professionals can undergo as much as a decade of training as they learn how to perform surgery and then specialize in heart surgery. The rate of compensation for a skilled surgeon can be very high, especially in a major urban area where his or her skills may be very much needed. While this profession is very male dominated, women can and do become heart surgeons, and female representation in this surgical specialty is on a slow rise.

Like other surgeons, those who operate on the heart are called in when another medical provider recognizes that a patient has a problem that must be corrected with surgery. The surgeon reviews the patient's medical records and meets with him or her to perform an assessment. During the patient meeting, the surgeon can discuss the condition that brought the patient into the office, and discuss possible treatment options, including different approaches to surgery.

Heart surgeons can operate on congenital abnormalities and malformations, correcting these defects so that a patient will enjoy a more normal level of heart function. They can also correct damage to the heart caused by disease, performing procedures such as coronary artery bypass surgery, heart transplant, or pacemaker implantation. The surgeon's goal is to get the patient's condition stabilized so that he or she will be healthier.


Operating on the heart is extremely challenging, and the tools for operating on the heart, such as the bypass machine used during surgery, are relatively recent introductions to the medical procedure. As a result, heart surgery itself is a relatively recent surgical profession. It is also rapidly advancing, as surgeons develop new techniques. Historically, a heart surgeon performed primarily open surgeries, which were highly invasive and came with a high risk of complications and a long healing time. Today, he or she may be able to perform minimally invasive surgery, which is much less traumatic for the patient.

Within the specialty of heart surgery, a surgeon may opt to become a pediatric surgeon, working specifically with children. Pediatric surgeries are typically performed to address congenital heart abnormalities, and they can be quite complex, as there is less room for the surgeon to work, especially in a very young child. These specialists often work in children's hospitals, which provide a range of health care services for children, and they may also be attached to teaching hospitals, where medical residents are provided with opportunities to work with patients and learn from some of the best doctors in the world.


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Post 6

I live in Oklahoma City and I have decided to be a heart surgeon when I grow up. I chose to be a heart surgeon when I was about eight years old. The reason why is because when I was eight, my grandfather had a heart attack. I was really worried and I did not want him to die. He was having surgery and to me the surgery felt like hours, but soon the doctor came out and told us that everything was okay, and that he would be okay.

I was really happy and I told the doctor that I wanted to be like him when I grow up. One day I will be saving a person. I know that my dream to be a heart surgeon will come true. I cannot wait to graduate from high school.

Post 5

I really want to be a heart surgeon when i grow up. I'm 13 years old and I like reading and learning things about being a heart surgeon.

Post 4

I think that the top heart surgeons probably have the steadiest hands. They also have to be really confident in their ability to keep their hands from shaking with nervousness.

I could never be a heart surgeon, because my hands are always shaky. It's a miracle that I can even paint as well as I do. However, no one is going to die if I mess up a painting.

Post 3

@DylanB – You are right about that. I also think that the best heart surgeon is one who genuinely cares about people.

My uncle had to have heart surgery a few years ago, and his surgeon was very attentive. He listened to my uncle's concerns, and he answer all of his questions without rushing through them.

He also told him to call him anytime that he had more questions. You don't hear this coming from a doctor's mouth very often.

Post 2

If a heart surgeon completes his education, then he is usually worth trusting with your life. Someone who is willing to endure that many years of study and practice to become a licensed heart surgeon is definitely someone I would want working on me.

If a person just doesn't care about this field of study, there is no way he would devote that much time, money, and effort to it. Heart surgeons are what they are because they love what they do.

Post 1

My grandfather was very blessed to have one of the country's most famous heart surgeons work on his heart. He was a minister, and he had traveled to the state capital to do his niece's wedding.

During the reception, he collapsed. He was rushed to the emergency room of the hospital where the visiting surgeon was working that day. My grandfather received the best possible care during his surgery, and he lived for decades afterward.

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