What is a Thoracic Surgeon?

A thoracic surgeon is a medical doctor who performs operations on the lungs, esophagus, thymus and other organs in the chest.

Provide treatment for:

  • Lung cancer
  • Lung nodules
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Anterior and posterior mediastinal tumors
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Paraesophageal hernias
  • Swallowing disorders such as achalasia
  • Excess sweating, usually of the palms or axilla, called hyperhydrosis

What is the difference between a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon?

A general thoracic surgeon treats diseases of the lungs, esophagus, chest wall, and mediastinum. A cardiac or cardiovascular surgeon will focus on the heart and great vessels. Congenital heart surgeons operate on infants and children with heart disease. Cardiothoracic surgeon is the most inclusive term used to describe the specialty, irrespective of a particular surgeon’s area of focus and expertise, and can be used interchangeably with the term thoracic surgeon.


  • Thoracoscopy or VATS - Thoracoscopy or VATS uses a long thoracoscope to visually examine the pleura, lungs, and mediastinum and to obtain tissue for testing purposes.
  • Removal of portion(s) of the lung containing cancer (i.e. lobectomy, pneumonectomy) – can be performed minimally invasively via VATS, robotics or via thoracotomy as indicated.
  • Removal of a portion of the esophagus containing cancer and reconstruction of the gastrointestinal tract – can be performed minimally invasively or via open approaches as indicated.
  • Thymectomy - Thymectomy is the surgical removal of the thymus gland. The thymus is removed in an effort to improve the weakness caused by myasthenia gravis, and/or to remove a thymoma if present. The thymus gland is part of the body’s immune system, and plays its largest role early in development. Surgical removal of the thymus has no effect on the immune system for someone after they are born. This can be performed minimally invasively via robotics in many cases. Often performed with electromagnetic guidance for better results (GPS for the airways).
  • Laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication - Laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication is a minimally invasive procedure which is done to restore the function of the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve between the esophagus and the stomach) by wrapping the stomach around the esophagus. This procedure creates a new “functional valve” between the esophagus and the stomach and prevents reflux of the acid and bile from the stomach into the esophagus.
  • Robotic Heller myotomy - Robotic Heller myotomy is a minimally invasive procedure that opens the tight lower esophageal sphincter (the valve between the esophagus and the stomach) by perfoming a myotomy (cutting the thick muscle of the lower part of the esophagus and the upper part of the stomach) to relieve the dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) using robotic guidance. Additionally, a partial fundoplication is performed to prevent reflux from the stomach into the esophagus following the myotomy.
  • Thoracoscopic sympathectomy - Thoracoscopic sympathectomy involves cauterizing (or clipping) a portion of the sympathetic nerve chain that runs down the back inside of the chest, parallel to the spine. This operation permanently interrupts the nerve signal that is causing the body to sweat excessively.
  • Bronchoscopy - Bronchoscopy is a test to view the airways and diagnose lung conditions and diseases.
  • Esophagoscopy - Esophagoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible endoscope is inserted through the mouth and into the esophagus. The endoscope uses a charge-coupled device to display magnified images on a video screen. The procedure allows visualization of the esophageal mucosa from the upper esophageal sphincter all the way to the esophageal gastric junction, or EG junction. In addition, the stomach and first portion of the small intestine can be evaluated.


IHA Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery