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U.S. Faces Serious Upcoming Shortfall of Cardiac Surgeons

Shortfall threatens quality of care if nonqualified surgeons must step in or needed care is deferred

TUESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- By 2025, the United States will face a 25 percent shortage in the number of cardiothoracic surgeons needed to care for a growing and aging population, according to a study published online July 27 in Circulation.

Atul Grover, M.D., of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C., and colleagues used population, hospital and physician data and a simulation model to project future needs and the supply of cardiothoracic surgeons. The projection took into account the number of new surgeons trained each year, changing patient demographics, and current and alternative use rates, including a scenario in which coronary artery bypass grafting is no longer performed.

The researchers concluded the demand for cardiothoracic surgeons could increase by 46 percent by 2025 based on the growth and the aging of the population if current health care use and delivery patterns are maintained. By that same year, they calculated a shortage of at least 1,500 surgeons, about 25 percent of the projected need. Even if coronary artery bypass grafting were eliminated, there would be a shortfall of cardiothoracic surgeons as a result of retirement and declining entrants to the field.

"The United States is facing a shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons within the next 10 years, which could diminish quality of care if non-board-certified physicians expand their role in cardiothoracic surgery or if patients must delay appropriate care because of a shortage of well-trained surgeons," the authors conclude.

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