Background The Physician Payment Sunshine Act was implemented to provide transparency to financial transactions between industry and physicians. Under this law, the Open Payments Program (OPP) was created to publicly disclose all transactions and inform patients of potential conflicts of interest. Collaboration between industry and cardiothoracic surgeon-scientists is essential in developing new approaches to treating patients with cardiac disease. The objective of this study is to characterize industry payments to cardiothoracic surgeons as reported by the OPP. Methods We used the first wave of Physician Payment Sunshine Act data (August 2013 to December 2013) to assess industry payments made to cardiothoracic surgeons. Results Cardiothoracic surgeons (n = 2,495) received a total of $4,417,545 during a 5-month period. Cardiothoracic surgeons comprised 0.5% of all persons in the OPP and received 0.9% of total disclosed industry funding. Among cardiothoracic surgeons receiving funding, 34% received payments less than $100, 43% received payments of $100 to $999, 19% received payments of $1,000 to $9,999, 4% received payments of $10,000 to $99,999, and 0.2% received payments of more than $100,000. The median was $181 (interquartile range [IQR]: $60 to $843) and the mean ± SD was $1,771 ± $7,664. The largest payment to an individual surgeon was $159,444. The three largest median payments made to cardiothoracic surgeons by expense category were royalty fees $8,398 (IQR: $536 to $12,316), speaker fees $3,600 (IQR: $1,500 to $8,000), and honoraria $3,344 (IQR: $1,563 to $7,350). Conclusions Among cardiothoracic surgeons who are listed as recipients of nonresearch industry payments, 50% of cardiothoracic surgeons received less than $181. Awareness of the OPP data is critical for cardiothoracic surgeons, as it provides a means to prevent potential public misconceptions about industry payments within the specialty that may affect patient trust.