Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery

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Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery
Diagram showing video assisted thoracoscopy (VATS) CRUK 378.svg
Diagram showing video assisted thoracoscopy (VATS)
MeSH D020775
Views during a VATS lobectomy procedure VATS 07.jpg
Views during a VATS lobectomy procedure

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a type of thoracic surgery performed using a small video camera that is introduced into the patient's chest via small incisions. The surgeon is able to view the instruments that are being used along with the anatomy on which the surgeon is operating. The camera and instruments are inserted through separate holes in the chest wall also known as "ports". These small ports are advantageous because the chance for infection and wound dehiscence are drastically reduced. This allows for a faster recovery by the patient and a greater chance for the wound to heal. [1]

Video camera camera used for electronic motion picture acquisition

A video camera is a camera used for electronic motion picture acquisition, initially developed for the television industry but now common in other applications as well.

Surgeon physician with surgical specialty

In modern medicine, a surgeon is a physician who performs surgical operations. There are also surgeons in podiatry, dentistry maxillofacial surgeon and the veterinary fields.

Wound dehiscence wound ruptures along a surgical incision.

Wound dehiscence is a surgical complication in which a wound ruptures along a surgical incision. Risk factors include age, collagen disorder such as Ehlers–Danlos syndrome, diabetes, obesity, poor knotting or grabbing of stitches, and trauma to the wound after surgery.


Traditionally, thoracic surgery performed for diagnosis or treatment of chest conditions has required access to the chest through thoracotomy or sternotomy incisions. Sternotomy requires the use of a sternal saw to divide the sternum and requires spreading of the divided portions of the sternum with a sternal retractor to allow for visualization of the thoracic structures, passage of instruments into the chest, and removal of specimens. Thoracotomy, as most commonly performed, requires division of one or more major muscles of the chest wall including the latissimus dorsi, pectoralis or serratus muscles, along with spreading of the ribs with a rib spreader. Because the joints of the ribs with the vertebral bodies have only limited flexibility, the use of a rib spreader usually results in rib fractures in the process of rendering the interspace between the ribs wide enough to perform diagnostic or therapeutic maneuvers. Because of this, thoracic surgeons generally intentionally remove a section of one or more ribs in an effort to prevent splintered rib fractures associated with the use of a rib spreader. Sternotomy and thoracotomy have been proven over decades to provide highly effective means of access to thoracic structures and in general are tolerated by patients. However, both incisions have the potential for causing significant pain that may last for extended periods and both result in bony fractures that require a minimum of six weeks to heal during which time patients must refrain from heavy lifting or strenuous activity. The great advantage of VATS over sternotomy or thoracotomy is avoidance of muscle division and bone fractures that allows for diminished duration and intensity of pain and a shorter time to return to full activity.

Thoracotomy incision into the pleural space of the chest

A thoracotomy is a surgical procedure to gain access into the pleural space of the chest. It is performed by surgeons to gain access to the thoracic organs, most commonly the heart, the lungs, or the esophagus, or for access to the thoracic aorta or the anterior spine. The purpose of a thoracotomy is the first step used to facilitate thoracic surgeries including lobectomy or pneumonectomy for lung cancer or to gain thoracic access in major trauma.

A sternal saw is a bone cutter used to perform median sternotomy, opening the patient's chest by splitting the breastbone, or sternum. It is a reciprocating blade saw that resembles a jigsaw in appearance. It was invented and introduced by Dr. Edward P. ("Ted") Diethrich in 1963.

Sternum flat bone in the middle front part of the rib cage

The sternum or breastbone is a long flat bone located in the central part of the chest. It connects to the ribs via cartilage and forms the front of the rib cage, thus helping to protect the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels from injury. Shaped roughly like a necktie, it is one of the largest and longest flat bones of the body. Its three regions are the manubrium, the body, and the xiphoid process. The word "sternum" originates from the Greek στέρνον, meaning "chest".

VATS came into widespread use beginning in the early 1990s. Operations that traditionally were carried out with thoracotomy or sternotomy that today can be performed with VATS include: biopsy for diagnosis of pulmonary, pleural or mediastinal pathology; decortication for empyema; pleurodesis for recurrent pleural effusions or spontaneous pneumothorax; surgical stapler assisted wedge resection of lung masses; resection of mediastinal or pleural masses; thoracic sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis; operations for diaphragmatic hernias or paralysis; esophageal resection or resection of esophageal masses or diverticula; and VATS lobectomy/mediastinal lymphadenectomy for lung cancer. [1]

Pleural cavity thin fluid-filled space between the two pulmonary pleurae (visceral and parietal) of each lung

The pleural cavity is the thin fluid-filled space between the two pulmonary pleurae of each lung. A pleura is a serous membrane which folds back onto itself to form a two-layered membranous pleural sac. The outer pleura is attached to the chest wall, but is separated from it by the endothoracic fascia. The inner pleura covers the lungs and adjoining structures, including blood vessels, bronchi and nerves. The pleural cavity can be viewed as a potential space because the two pleurae adhere to each other under all normal conditions. Parietal pleura projects up to 2.5 cm above the junction of the middle and medial third of the clavicle


Pleurodesis is a medical procedure in which the pleural space is artificially obliterated. It involves the adhesion of the two pleurae.

Pneumothorax abnormal collection of air in the pleural space that causes an uncoupling of the lung from the chest wall

A pneumothorax is an abnormal collection of air in the pleural space between the lung and the chest wall. Symptoms typically include sudden onset of sharp, one-sided chest pain and shortness of breath. In a minority of cases the amount of air in the chest increases when a one-way valve is formed by an area of damaged tissue, leading to a tension pneumothorax. This condition can cause a steadily worsening oxygen shortage and low blood pressure. Unless reversed by effective treatment, it can result in death. Very rarely both lungs may be affected by a pneumothorax. It is often called a collapsed lung, although that term may also refer to atelectasis.

The instrumentation for VATS includes the use of a camera-linked 5 mm or 10 mm fiber-optic scope, with or without a 30-degree angle of visualization, and either conventional thoracic instruments or laparoscopic instruments. Unlike with laparoscopy, carbon dioxide insufflation is not generally required with VATS due to the inherent vault-like shape of the thoracic cavity. However, lung deflation on the side of the chest where VATS is being performed is a must to be able to visualize and pass instruments into the thorax; this is usually effected with a double-lumen endo-tracheal tube that allows for single lung ventilation or a bronchial blocker delivered via a standard single-lumen endotracheal tube. [1]

Insufflation is the act of blowing something into a body cavity. Insufflation has many medical uses, most notably as a route of administration for various drugs.

A tracheal tube is a catheter that is inserted into the trachea for the primary purpose of establishing and maintaining a patent airway and to ensure the adequate exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Similarly to laparoscopy, VATS has enjoyed widespread use for technically straightforward operations such as pulmonary decortication, pleurodesis, and lung or pleural biopsies, while more technically demanding operations such as esophageal operations, mediastinal mass resections, or pulmonary lobectomy for early stage lung cancer, have been slower to catch on and have tended to remain confined to selected centers. It is expected that advanced VATS techniques will continue to grow in numbers spurred by patient demand and greater surgeon comfort with the techniques.

Lobectomy of the lung is a surgical operation where a lobe of the lung is removed. It is done to remove a portion of diseased lung, such as early stage lung cancer.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 Shields, Thomas (2004). General Thoracic Surgery. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 524. ISBN   978-0-7817-3889-7.

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