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Cardiovascular surgeons are medical professionals that perform surgical procedures on patients who have heart problems. These surgeons specialize in heart surgeries, including bypass surgeries, heart transplants, and open heart operations. Cardiovascular surgeons are a subset of another category of surgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons, who operate on the organs inside the thorax, or chest, including the heart and lungs.
According to the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, there were only 4,000 cardiothoracic surgeons practicing in the United States in 2010. Worse, estimates indicate that number is set to drop precipitously low by 2030, down to 3,000, a drop of 25%. Cardiothoracic surgeries, on the other hand, are expected to increase from 530,000 to 854,000, a jump of 61%, including a 54% increase in the number of heart surgeries that are performed by cardiovascular surgeons.
To achieve the formal education requirements that cardiovascular surgeons need, it often takes approximately 15 years.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in college, future cardiovascular surgeons need to attend and graduate from medical school with either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. After graduating from medical school, cardiovascular surgeons need to then complete a residency in general surgery, which takes between five and seven years. After that, they need to then complete a fellowship in cardiovascular surgery, which typically takes another two to three years.
In recent years, some medical programs have started integrating the cardiovascular surgery fellowship with their general surgery residency, allowing potential cardiovascular surgeons to speed the process up and graduate in six intensive years. The competition for these programs, however, is extreme, with only a few dozen positions available for hundreds of prospective cardiovascular surgeons.
Each state in the U.S. handles medical licensing on its own, making the licensing requirements for cardiovascular surgeons vary, depending on where they practice. However, general medical licenses only allow a surgeon to practice medicine – not claim any special knowledge or expertise in a particular field, like cardiovascular surgery.
In addition to this general medical license, cardiovascular surgeons also need to be board certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery (ABTS). This requires a list of professional requirements and the passing of both a written and oral examination, as outlined in ABTS’ annual certification pamphlet.
Where Cardiovascular Surgeons Work
Cardiovascular surgeons can work in a variety of similar, but crucially distinct, settings.
Occasionally, cardiovascular surgeons work under the direct employment of hospitals, medical research facilities, or universities in the U.S., performing heart surgeries in their operating rooms. More likely, however, cardiovascular surgeons operate out of a private practice that regional hospitals hire as independent contractors.
Whether a cardiovascular surgeon works directly with a medical facility as an employee, or indirectly as an independent contractor, can make a significant difference in a medical malpractice case because it can impact whether the facility can also be made responsible for the surgeon’s malpractice.
How Cardiovascular Surgeons Help People
Cardiovascular surgeons in the United States see more than half a million patients every year in the country, performing life-saving surgeries on people in dire need of serious medical attention for heart problems. These heart surgeries can come in a variety of forms, including open heart surgery, minimally-invasive surgery, transplants, and pediatric surgeries. Some of the most common procedures that cardiovascular surgeons perform are:
- Bypass surgeries,
- Transmyocardial revascularizations,
- Heart surgeries, including heart valve replacements or repairs,
- Aneurysm repairs,
- Arrhythmia treatments,
- Cardiomyoplasties, and
- Heart transplants.
These surgical procedures, and others like them, are meant to correct serious heart conditions and to reduce the symptoms that come with other heart problems, such as:
- Heart disease,
- High risk of stroke,
- Damage from high blood pressure, or
- Congenital heart disease.
For their work, cardiovascular surgeons made, on average, $340,237 in salary during 2016.
Medical Negligence and Cardiovascular Surgeons
Like all surgeries, however, cardiovascular surgeries are high-risk endeavors that require all of the surgeon’s attention, care, and skill. When a surgeon acts negligently and makes a mistake, even a small mistake, it can have serious and life-threatening consequences because it can literally damage your heart and prevent it from working properly.
One of the most common ways for a cardiovascular surgeon to commit medical malpractice is to cause tissue damage during the procedure. Tissue damage to your heart or to the surrounding tissue can have serious repercussions to your health for years to come because of how much wear and tear that tissue has to go through on a daily basis.
Another common example of a cardiovascular surgeon’s medical malpractice is a mistake with regard to your blood flow during a surgical procedure. All of the blood in your body passes through your heart at some point, so disrupting this flow can have a significant impact on the other areas of your body that it deprives. This is especially serious when it is the blood flow to your brain that gets interrupted, as this can increase your risk of suffering a stroke and can even cause long-term or permanent brain damage from the loss of oxygen.
If a cardiovascular surgeon or the other medical professionals who were involved in a surgical procedure makes a mistake, acts negligently, or does something that is outside the acceptable standards of medical care, and you get hurt as a result, you stand to receive compensation for your losses.
Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a cardiovascular surgery and you suspect that those injuries were the result of an instance of medical malpractice, you need legal help to protect your rights and pursue your interests.
This is where the personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian can help. We have a track record of success in medical malpractice cases throughout the state of Maryland, and strive to help malpractice victims get the compensation and the justice that they deserve after their terrible losses.
Contact us online or call our law office today at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.