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VATS (Thoracic Surgery)

  • Thoracic surgery refers to operations on organs in the chest, including the heart, the lungs and esophagus. One might need thoracic surgery for a variety of reasons: Some people have injuries or accidents that damage the chest area. Some have a growth or disease such as cancer. Others are born with conditions that require surgery to improve how their body works or quality of life.
  • A lot of Thoracic Surgery involves surgery for some sort of cancer. This includes such tumors as lung cancer, esophageal cancer, tumors of the chest wall (rib cage, sternum, etc…) and tumors of the mediastinum, or the space around the heart.
  • It also involves curing or helping people with disease processes that are not cancer related. This includes such procedures like thymectomy for Myasthenia Gravis, sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis or “sweaty palms”, first rib resection for thoracic outlet syndrome, myotomy for Achalasia, esophagectomy and reconstruction for end stage benign esophageal disease, plication of the diaphragm for diaphragm paralysis, resection of esophageal diverticulum, removal of cysts of the chest, lung transplantation, and providing tissue or biopsies of the lung and chest tissue to diagnose problems such as interstitial lung disease.
  • Much of Thoracic Surgery is now done minimally invasively by using small incisions, a thin camera and high definition monitors. This is called Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery or (VATS).
The Surgery:
  • VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery) is a type of minimally invasive thoracic surgery of the chest, performed with a thoracoscope (small videoscope) using small incisions and special instruments to minimize trauma.
  • Other names for this procedure include thoracoscopy, thoracoscopic surgery or pleuroscopy
  • During thoracoscopic surgery, three small (approximately 1-inch) incisions are used, as compared with one long 6- to 8-inch chest incision that is used during traditional, “open” thoracic surgery. Surgical instruments and the thoracoscope are inserted through these small incisions.
  • The thoracoscope transmits images of the operative area onto a computer monitor that is positioned next to the patient.
  • As compared with traditional surgery, patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery experience:
  • Decreased postoperative pain
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • More rapid recovery and return to work
  • Other possible benefits include reduced risk of infection and less bleeding.
The Recovery:
  • Your chest may be sore where the doctor made the incisions and put in the surgical tools. This usually gets better after 2 to 3 weeks.
  • You will have stitches or staples in the incisions. Your doctor will take these out 1 to 2 weeks after your surgery.
  • The amount of time you will need to recover depends on the surgery you had. But you probably will need to take it easy at home for at least 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Avoid strenuous activities and lifting weights.
  • You will probably need to take at least 1 to 2 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and the surgery you had.
  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink Plenty of fluids.
  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.