Thoracic Surgery – What and Why

The thorax or chest is the part of the body between the neck and abdomen. The thorax includes the thoracic cavity and the thoracic wall. The chest is separated from the abdomen by the diaphragm. 12 pairs of ribs form the walls of thorax. The important organs in the thoracic cavity are the Heart, Lungs, Trachea, Thymus and Oesophagus.

What is Thoracic surgery?


Thoracic surgery is the repair of organs and tissues located in the thorax. It generally deals with disorders of the lungs and oesophagus. It also includes surgical repair of congenital (birth defects) and acquired conditions (any infection or due to faulty lifestyle) of the heart, including the pericardium, coronary arteries, valves, great vessels and myocardium. When the surgery involves the heart it is named as Cardiothoracic Surgery.

What are the common problems involving thorax


The condition may arise due to trauma, infection, congenital or birth defect and various other reasons. To list a few:


Lung Cancer Chest Trauma Benign diseases and tumours of the lung Esophageal Cancer Benign esophageal diseases (including achalasia, benign tumours and strictures) Esophageal Reconstruction Gastroesophageal reflux Chest wall tumours Coronary artery disease or blockages of the arteries in the heart Abnormal enlargement or aneurysms of the large arteries in the chest Heart failure Atrial septal defects Ventricular septal defects


What does a thoracic surgeon do?


A thoracic surgeon is a medical doctor who performs operations on the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. It includes cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiovascular surgeons, general thoracic surgeons, and congenital heart surgeons. All thoracic surgeons have the same general training and are certified by the same specialty board, except for congenital heart surgeons who have a sub-specialty certificate for the same, other than the thoracic surgeon. Congenital heart surgeons operate on infants and children with heart disease.


Are Cardiologist and Pulmonologist same as Thoracic surgeons?


A cardiologist will primarily diagnose disorders of the heart and treat them with medication. Cardiologists also perform interventions or invasive procedures on the arteries in the heart working through punctured wounds in the groin. A pulmonologist will diagnose disorders of the lung and treat them with medication. Some pulmonologists will perform interventions through the airway such as bronchoscopy to diagnose some disorders. The difference is a thoracic surgeon is specialised in performing open surgeries and is well trained to take care of the pre-operative, post-operative as well as later management of cases involving thoracic region.




A highly trained and comprehensive team of respiratory therapists and nurses is crucial for post-operative care. Patients may experience discomfort after surgery, and are given appropriate medications.


PIH welcomes on board the very talented and experienced thoracic surgeon Dr Jian Hu Wen. He has previously worked with Port Moresby General Hospital and now is available for general and specialist consultations at PIH from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday at PIH. He is also available on call on after-hours and on weekends at the Emergency room.