How is video-assisted thoracic surgery used in lung cancer?

Dr. Neal Chuang, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) for lung cancer is a minimally invasive procedure requiring small incisions about an inch long. A camera is directed through one of the incisions so doctors can visualize the lung. Long, thin instruments are inserted into the other incisions so doctors can dissect out and remove the cancer. The advantage of doing VATS is reduced pain, which allows people to recover faster, spend less time in the hospital, and return to their normal activities more quickly.

Essentially, there are tubes and cameras placed between the ribs. That allows for small incisions rather than having large incisions. You’re less likely to have your ribs spread. It’s like a laproscopy, except for the chest. The camera is outside the body but the lens is over a foot long, between 3 and 5mm in diameter. Usually the camera is 5 to 10mm in size. There’s a little bit of an angle so you can turn the whole lens to get a different view. That expands the field of vision.

Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is used frequently to assist in the diagnosis, staging, and treatment of lung cancer. In addition to aiding in the diagnosis of pulmonary nodules, VATS can significantly reduce the morbidity associated with the traditional surgical removal of lung nodules.

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive lung surgery that uses a scope to reach the cancer. Instead of a single long incision, VATS involves just three to four small incisions, a tiny video camera and special instruments. Pain, hospital stay, blood loss, recovery and risk of complication are less than with traditional surgery. Most surgical patients are eligible for VATS, and cancer control is equal to traditional lung cancer surgery.

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