Darien W. Bradford, MD, Methodist Heart and Lung

Cardiothoracic Surgeon

About the Expert

Board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, Dr. Darien Bradford has spent 30 years as a leader in his field, pioneering many life-saving techniques, such as minimally-invasive surgery for coronary artery disease, cancers of the lung, esophagus and chest wall, abnormalities of the great vessels and heart valves, as well as birth defects of the chest and heart.


What is a cardiothoracic surgeon?

A cardiothoracic surgeon is a medical doctor trained to diagnose and treat diseases of the chest, esophagus, diaphragm, heart, lungs, and trachea. A cardiothoracic surgeon completes medical school then a five-year general surgery residency followed by a two to three-year cardiothoracic surgery residency program or enter into a six-year integrated cardiothoracic surgery residency. Some choose to do additional training in a subspecialized area.

What’s the difference between a cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon?

While they play equally important roles in the care of a patient with heart disease, in general cardiologists handle diagnosis and medical treatment or nonsurgical procedures such as balloon angioplasty, coronary stents, ablation procedures, or placement of devices such as pacemakers or defibrillators. Cardiothoracic surgeons tackle more aggressive treatment such as bypass surgery and surgical valve replacement procedures. The patient generally follows up with a cardiologist once a cardiothoracic surgeon has released them. Some newer procedures involve both cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgery such as TAVR or percutaneous valve replacement procedures. 

What advancements have you seen in your field?

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been blessed to pioneer many minimally invasive thoracic surgery technique and technologies such as video and robot-assisted surgery of the chest, heart, lungs, esophagus, diaphragm, and trachea. These less-invasive procedures mean shorter recovery time, less risk of infection, negligible scarring, reduced recovery time, less blood, less pain, fewer complications, and far greater success rates. I’ve also had the privilege of pioneering a new mechanical heart valve requiring less anticoagulation. And minimally-invasive Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy (ENB) allows me access to difficult-to-reach areas of the lung, aiding in the diagnosis of lung disease and leading to earlier, personalized treatment, potentially saving lives. 

What are some other procedures you perform?

As a cardiothoracic surgeon for 30 years, I’ve performed thousands of angioplasties to restore a healthy blood flow to the heart, stent placement to open up narrow heart arteries, ablations to treat abnormal heart rates and rhythms, implantations of pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators to correct abnormal heart rhythms and help hearts beat more efficiently, open-heart surgery to treat heart blockages in the coronary arteries or correct problems or defects, coronary artery bypass grafting to bypass a coronary artery that’s narrowed or blocked, heart valve repair or replacement for damaged or diseased valves, ventricular assist devices to treat heart failure, and carotid surgery to remove plaque in a carotid artery.

What are the benefits of these procedures?

Cardiothoracic surgeries can help open coronary arteries narrowed by fatty plaque buildup, repair weakened heart muscle or defects, or correct heart rhythm problems. Because each patient is unique, each receives highly tailored treatment in collaboration with their primary care physician, cardiologist, or other healthcare providers. With new minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgeries the risk factors involved in these procedures is greatly reduced and success rates are greatly improved. We’re seeing patients return to a long, vibrant life after surgery.

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