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VIDEO: Cardiothoracic surgeon shortage requires action



BALTIMORE – By 2035, U.S. cardiothoracic surgeons will see a 61% increase in the national caseload, and potentially a 121% increase in cases for each surgeon, according to a data analysis presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery.

Using data from the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, a research team at Ohio State University performed case load calculations for 2035 based on cases per surgeon per year in 2010. The researchers estimated that the average caseload per surgeon in 2035 will be 299 cases, compared with a 2010 caseload of 135 per surgeon. This increase is not matched by the number of surgeons currently trained and certified annually.

Dr. John Ikonomidis, chief of the division of cardiothoracic surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and a discussant on the presentation, said surgeon retirements and an increase in the population needing treatment have put the specialty in a bind.

“We have a bit of a crisis now, honestly, but this particular paper puts it in even further perspective,” Dr. Ikonomidis said in a video interview. “By 2035 we’re looking at a 3,000-surgeon shortage, relative to what would be available.” He noted that approximately 90 medical residents per year are certified as cardiothoracic surgeons, a rate which will not produce enough CT surgeons to meet the projected shortage.

“We need to continue to have this conversation,” he concluded. “It is a reminder that the predictions we made 15 years ago appear to be true, and we probably need to do something about it, at least in the short term.”

Dr. Ikonomidis reported no relevant financial disclosures.

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