Video Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery

Video Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to access the chest cavity to operate on the lung, mediastinum, pleura, and esophagus. Compared to the more traditional, open approach know as a thoracotomy, VATS avoids large, rib spreading incisions that cause significant postoperative pain. VATS ultilizes small incisions within the rib spaces without the need for soft tissue or rib spreading which results in less postoperative pain, quicker time to ambulate, and decreased length of hospital stay.

VATS is utilized as a diagnositc and therapeutic approach to treat many conditions such as lung and esophageal cancer, as well as benign conditions such as pneumothorax, infection (empyema), and cysts. Procedures may range from performing biopsies of the lung or lymph nodes in the chest to large resections such as lobectomies. Studies have shown that VATS is an oncologically sound procedure for lung cancer providing complete resection, accurate staging, and comparable survivial rates than the more invasive thoracotomy approach.

What are the key benefits of VATS?

Recovery is swift. VATS patients eat and walk within hours of the procedure. Less pain and deceased hospital stay associated with the VATS approach translates into rapid return to daily activities and work.

What happens during a VATS procedure?

VATS is performed using a small high definition video camera (5mm diameter) attached to a thoracoscope, which is introduced into the patient’s chest through a small incision. The video camera then transmits magnified images of the chest cavity onto strategically positioned monitors in the operating room – providing the surgeons with an unparalleled view inside the entire chest. The images are of the same quality as high definition television. Concurrently, the remaining small incisions serve as entry ports for the surgical instruments necessary to carry out the procedure.

Because VATS avoids the large, destructive and painful chest incision associated with a traditional thoracotomy, patients experience fewer complications and rarely suffer from severe and chronic chest wall pain. The short-lived discomfort caused by the smaller VATS incisions is generally well controlled with oral medications.