Transplants are among the most dramatic of all surgical procedures. Taking a piece of one person's body and using to repair another's would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago, but today is a routine part of surgical practice. Transplants are performed by surgeons from several disciplines, and their incomes vary accordingly.
General surgeons perform a wide range of procedures, but typically they focus on the abdomen, skin, neck and some related areas of the body. They frequently work organs in the abdomen, and some general surgeons specialize in transplant procedures of the kidney and liver. According to a 2012 salary survey conducted by the American Medical Group Association, the median salary for kidney transplant specialists was $421,200 a year or $35,100 per month. Their colleagues in liver transplant surgery enjoyed a median salary of $457,000, or $38,083 per month. Non-specialized general surgeons, in contrast, earned $370,024 or $30,835 a month.
While no transplant is trivial, heart, lung or heart-lung transplants are among the most challenging of all surgical procedures. They're performed by cardiothoracic surgeons, specialists in procedures involving the heart, lungs and surrounding tissues. The AMGA study reported a median salary of $544,087 or $45,340 per month for cardiac and thoracic surgeons. A 2011 salary survey by the rival Medical Group Management Association reported an average salary of $560,659 or $46,721 a month for cardiac surgeons, and $473,927 or $39,493 per month for thoracic surgeons.
So-called "eye transplants" are frequently performed to restore vision to blind or vision-impaired patients. The whole donor eye isn't transplanted, just the cornea or a single layer of the cornea. These transplants are performed by ophthalmologists, who are doctors and surgeons of the eye. The AMGA salary survey reports a median salary of $371,987 for ophthalmologists, or $30,999 per month.
Surgeons in a few other specialties also perform transplants, though it's relatively rare. Orthopedic surgeons can sometimes attach a transplanted finger, thumb or even a whole hand or foot. With the assistance of neurological and vascular surgeons, they help connect the blood vessels and nerves. Some plastic surgeons have had success in recent years with dramatic full-face transplants for badly disfigured patients. These procedures are rare enough that it's difficult to generalize the salaries earned by the surgeons who perform them.
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: General Surgery
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Ophthalmology
- Cejka Search: Physician Salaries Reported By the American Medical Group Association (AMGA)
- Becker's Hospital Review: 16 Statistics on Surgeon Compensation by Specialty
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images