VATS is a type of chest surgery that requires making tiny openings in the chest. During VATS, the doctor makes small, keyhole incisions and uses a tiny camera (called a thoracoscope) and other small tools. Images from the camera are sent to TV monitors. The doctor relies on these images to do the surgery.
VATS is used to diagnose and treat a range of conditions. Common reasons to undergo VATS include:
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Compared to traditional procedures, VATS may result in:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have VATS, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Discuss these risks with your doctor before surgery.
Depending on the reason for your surgery, your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to the surgery:
VATS is usually done using general anesthesia . This will block pain and keep you asleep during surgery.
You will be connected to a ventilator. This is a machine that moves air in and out of your lungs. Depending on the reason you are having VATS, one lung will be completely or partly deflated. This will allow your doctor to have a better view of the chest cavity on that side.
Several small cuts in the skin will be made along your side. Carbon dioxide gas will be used to fill the chest cavity. The gas will make it easier for the doctor to see internal structures. Through one of the incisions, the doctor will insert the thoracoscope. This camera will send images to the TV monitors. The doctor will rely on these images to do the surgery. Other small tools will be inserted into the cuts. These tools will allow the doctor to grasp, cut, dissect, and suture.
When the surgery is done, the tools will be removed. The lung will be inflated. A chest tube will be placed to drain any air or fluid. The doctor will close the incisions with sutures or staples.
If you are doing well, the breathing tube will be removed. In the recovery room, the hospital staff will monitor your vital signs. You may be given fluids and medicines through an IV.
1-2 hours (depending on the procedure)
You will have pain after surgery. Your doctor will give you pain medicine.
You may be able to go home the next day. If you have VATS for a lobectomy (removal of part of the lung), the usual length of stay is 3-4 days.
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
Follow your doctor’s instructions, which may include:
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
Call for medical help or go to the emergency room right away if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American College of Surgeons
Society of Thoracic Surgeons
Canadian Lung Association
A patient’s guide to lung surgery: recovering at the hospital. University of Southern California, Cardiothoracic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.cts.usc.edu/lpg-thoracoscopy-recoveringinthehospital.html. Accessed March 9, 2010.
A patient’s guide to lung surgery: recovering at home. University of Southern California, Cardiothoracic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.cts.usc.edu/lpg-thoracoscopy-recoveringathome.html. March 9, 2010.
A patient’s guide to lung surgery: when to call the doctor. University of Southern California, Cardiothoracic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.cts.usc.edu/lpg-thoracoscopy-whentocallyourdoctor.html. Accessed March 9, 2010.
Pulmonary lobectomy. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated November 2009. Accessed March 8, 2010.
Robot-assisted laparoscopic procedures. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated December 2009. Accessed March 8, 2010.
Robot-assisted thoracic procedures. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated December 2009. Accessed March 8, 2010.
Video-assisted thoracic surgery. Harvard Health Publications website. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/diagnostic-tests/video-assisted-thoracic-surgery.htm. Accessed March 8, 2010.
Video-assisted thorascopic surgery (VATS). Rush University Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.rush.edu/rumc/page-1160429783340.html. Accessed March 8, 2010.
Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/video-assisted-thoracic-surgery. Accessed March 8, 2010.
6/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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