About cardiothoracic surgeons

A cardiothoracic surgeon is a medical doctor with special training and skills in heart and lung surgery.

Cardiothoracic surgeons operate on the heart, lungs, aorta and other organs in the chest, for people who have heart or lung diseases or conditions.

Why your child might see a cardiothoracic surgeon

Your child might need to see a cardiothoracic surgeon if he needs minor or major heart or lung surgery.

Cardiothoracic surgeons are involved in many types of operations, ranging from simple closures of holes in the heart to major reconstructions when essential parts of the heart are missing. For example, your child might need an operation to fix a hole in his heart or an obstructed or leaking heart valve.

Cardiothoracic surgeons also work on heart and lung transplants.

Cardiothoracic surgeons work closely with cardiologists. Cardiologists investigate problems with the heart to find out what’s wrong. They refer to cardiothoracic surgeons, who do the operation. It’s a good idea to see a cardiologist before going to a cardiothoracic surgeon.

To see a cardiothoracic surgeon you need a referral from your GP or another medical specialist, such as a cardiologist. Your GP can help you decide about seeing a cardiothoracic surgeon and help you find someone who’s right for your child.

Before going to a cardiothoracic surgeon

Before seeing the cardiothoracic surgeon, it’s a good idea to find out some information about the following issues:

  • Why you’re going to the cardiothoracic surgeon: talk with your GP or cardiologist about why your child needs to see a cardiothoracic surgeon and whether there’s anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment.
  • Waiting list: how long before you can get an appointment to see the cardiothoracic surgeon?
  • Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to make an appointment.
  • Costs: how much will the appointment with the cardiothoracic surgeon cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you can get money back from Medicare, your private health fund or another agency.
  • Location: find out where you have to go to see the cardiothoracic surgeon – for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs.

You might want to talk about these things and any other questions you have with your GP before you go to the cardiothoracic surgeon. You could also ask the cardiothoracic surgeon’s clinic when you make the appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.

If you’re worried about your child’s heart, start by seeing your GP. Your GP will refer your child to a cardiologist or to a hospital emergency service if needed.