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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2010 Apr;139(4):835-40; discussion 840-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2009.12.004. Epub 2010 Feb 1.

A formidable task: Population analysis predicts a deficit of 2000 cardiothoracic surgeons by 2030.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, The Ohio State University School of Medicine, Columbus, Ohio, USA.



To estimate the cardiovascular workforce needed by 2030 to meet the needs of our population and to quantify its costs. Our field is changing. The volume of surgery and the nature of the surgery are changing. The nation's population grew from 227,000,000 to 282,000,000 between 1980 and 2000, and by 2030 the population is estimated to be 364,000,000. At the same time, the applications for fellowship in our specialty are decreasing at an alarming rate. The American Board of Thoracic Surgery has certified 4500 cardiothoracic surgeons since 1975, but only 1300 in the last 10 years. The US Department of Health and Human Services predicts only 3620 full-time cardiothoracic surgeons in 2020. Will we have enough cardiovascular and thoracic surgeons?


Retrospective examination of the pertinent literature and with a modified Richard Cooper's economic trend analysis, a population algorithm with a ratio of physicians to population of 1.42 per 100,000. Each thoracic surgeon is predicted to practice 30 years from Board certification to retirement. The Balanced Budget Act will not be revised; therefore, we will certify 100 graduates from our programs per year. The assumed salaries will be 50,000 dollars with benefits of 30% and 15,000 dollars of additional Direct Medical Education costs.


The population in 2030 will be 364,000,000 with 5169 cardiothoracic surgeons needed at that time. Unfortunately, there will be approximately only 3200 cardiothoracic surgeons in practice with a shortage of approximately 2000. To maintain our current status per 100,000 population from 2011 to 2030, we will have to train 4000 residents. The total person years would be approximately 28,000. The cost for this is more than 2,000,000,000 dollars. The annual cost for this training prorated over 20 years would be more than 110,000,000 dollars.


We must train approximately 4000 surgeons, an extra 100 per year, in our specialty to meet the needs of the population by 2030. That will cost approximately 2,250,000,000 dollars. To do this, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 must be revised to permit more residents to be trained in the United States.

Copyright 2010 The American Association for Thoracic Surgery. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.

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