A cardiothoracic surgeon (also called a cardiovascular surgeon or a
cardiac surgeon) is a specialist trained to perform these procedures. The two
main circumstances in which you might see a cardiothoracic surgeon are as
- Your cardiologist, after performing more
extensive diagnoses and evaluations, decides that you need surgery to restore
proper blood flow to your heart.
- You have a medical emergency, such
as a heart attack, and your physicians decide that surgery is necessary to save
One of the more common surgical procedures that cardiothoracic
surgeons perform is called a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. During a typical CABG surgery, the surgeon will remove a
healthy vessel from another part of the body, most commonly the leg or chest
wall, and graft, or attach, it to the coronary artery to create a new path of
blood flow to the heart.
What is the role of other specialists?
If you develop certain CAD-related complications, you may need to see
a number of other specialists to treat your specific conditions. For example,
you may need to see a nephrologist (kidney specialist) if you develop kidney
problems or a neurologist (brain and nervous system specialist) if CAD leads to
a stroke. Your primary care physician will direct you to the specialists who
are skilled in treating your specific condition. You may be referred to the
While primary care physicians serve as central coordinators of care
for many people with CAD, nurse educators are valuable resources as well.
Nurse educators usually have more time to devote to your care and to
make sure that no aspect of your treatment falls through the cracks. In
addition to serving as a care coordinator, your nurse educator will serve other
important functions. For example, a professional educator may be the first one
to help you understand CAD, begin your treatment plan, teach you about the
effects of various medications on your condition, and help you with lifestyle
One of the nurse educator's most important roles is to provide you
with the information you need about your disease as you are ready to handle it.
You will have CAD for the rest of your life, and your nurse educator can be
there with the information that you need to adapt to changes in your condition.
Physical therapist/rehab nurse
Should you have a sudden (acute) event, such as a heart attack, or
need emergency surgery for a complication of CAD, a physical therapist or
rehabilitation nurse can help you get back to a healthy and active lifestyle
after you are discharged from the hospital. If you have been hospitalized, it
is likely that your body will have undergone a considerable amount of stress.
You may need to work slowly to build up your strength after an acute event or
major surgical procedure, and your physical therapist or rehab nurse will be
able to help you reach this goal by guiding you through special exercises and