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Cardiothoracic vs. Vascular Surgeons

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Good morning family! Thank you for coming back to another beautiful day of #AorticDiseaseAwarenessMonth! Yesterday we went over a little bit about aortic valves. Help jog my memory please - What did it mean when an aortic valve was super tight? Is this aortic stenosis or regurgitation? Comment below and no peeking !!

Today’s topic is a little unique. We are going to be comparing two amazing types of surgeons that help treat aortic disease: Cardiothoracic and Vascular surgeons. While these two usually work together to repair aneurysms and dissections in the aorta, their expertise, training, and common surgeries are unique.

Let’s start with Cardiothoracic (CT) surgeons. These ladies and gentlemen are our beloved The Heart Specialists, who specialize in surgical repair of diseases affecting the heart and lungs.

CT surgeons complete medical school before starting residency. During residency, these surgeons train to learn general surgery procedures followed by cardiothoracic surgeries, which focuses specifically on surgeries of the heart and lungs.

A good rule of thumb is that their main area of operation involves the chest organs and surrounding blood vessels. Common surgeries done by CT surgeons includes coronary bypass surgery, valve repairs, heart and lung transplants, and of course aortic aneurysms and dissections.

Now on to our amazing Vascular surgeons. These ladies and gentlemen are our vessel specialists, which means their focus is treating diseases our entire vascular system, includes both arteries and veins throughout the body. This includes vessels near or stomach, in our limbs, and of course vessels of the heart, such as the aorta.

Similar to CT surgeons, vascular surgeons complete medical school and spent some time learning general surgery. However, they go on to train in vascular surgery, which emphasizes the surgical treatment of vessels throughout the entire body.

A difference here between vascular surgeons and CT surgeons, is that vascular surgeons may find themselves operating far away from the chest, such as in arteries in the neck and in blood vessels from peripheral trauma, such as limb injuries carotid artery disease (in the neck).

When it comes out aortic health, our CT and Vascular Superheroes often team up to diagnose and treat of aortic dissections and aneurysms.

This means that after your CT, echo, and MRI results come in, they may review your images together and plan the best way to repair the damage. Based on what part of your aorta has disease, one may find themselves being operated on by aCT surgeon, a vascular surgeon or both.

For example, open chest surgery is usually needed if an aneurysm or dissection involves the ascending aorta. CT surgeons here will be able to open the chest safely and repair the areas of damage, taking great care to ensure the great branches that come off of the aorta to feed blood to the brain remain in-tact.

Conversely, for type B dissections involving the descending aorta (further away from the heart) or those traveling down to the arteries of the leg (iliac), a vascular surgeon will be able to smoothly perform endovascular repair and deploy durable grafts to fix any leakages or aneurysms.

If you need surgery, understanding the different roles of CT and vascular surgeons may be useful when planning you care. The important thing to know is that regardless of who you or your loved one sees, these teams work to ensure you are getting the best care possible and have dedicated a great portion of their lives to training to be experts in their field.

For more information on the CT and vascular surgeons, and their work, feel free to check out these links!

And that’s all for this session. Thanks for coming family and I hope you learned something new today. That’s all from me this week, but be sure to tune back in tomorrow where Duc will be reviewing some high-yield imaging tests used for aortic disease, including CT, echo, and MRI.

See you soon family and remember always to #ThinkAorta!



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