General thoracic surgeons (GTS) perform the vast majority (77.5%) of complex noncardiac thoracic surgical procedures in academic settings, according to study results published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. This figure was considerably higher than surgeries performed by cardiac surgeons (9.9%), general surgeons (8.9%), and surgical oncologists (3.7%).

Researchers believe these results may help determine hospital referral and credentialing policies, and plan general and cardiothoracic surgery residency curricula.

“Given the prevalence of lung and esophageal diseases, especially cancers, all surgeons-in-training need to know the best and most current thoracic surgery techniques in order to provide skilled, curative approaches for these patient populations,” said David Wisner, senior author of the study and UC Davis professor of surgery.

Investigators evaluated billing patterns among more than 5,000 clinically active US physicians in academic medical centers over three fiscal years, from 2007 to 2010. The team focused on academic institutions because they perform many noncardiac thoracic surgeries and tend to set standards for medical practice.

“It’s clear that general thoracic surgeons in academic settings perform the lion’s share of pulmonary resections and esophagectomies and nearly all of the minimally invasive procedures,” said Cooke. “It’s important to consider the current state of the field when defining specialties, along with policies for referrals, credentialing, and training.”