Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to diagnose and treat problems in your chest. During this surgery, a tiny camera (thoracoscope) and surgical instruments are inserted in the chest through small incisions. The thoracoscope transmits images of the inside of your chest onto a video monitor, guiding the surgeon in performing the procedure. Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) can be used for many purposes, ranging from a biopsy to removal of tumors or entire lobes from the lung.
Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to diagnose and treat problems in your chest. VATS can replace traditional surgery, called a thoracotomy, which accesses the chest via one large incision.
Its advantages include:
- Less pain and need for pain medication
- Smaller scar
- Shorter hospital stay
- Faster recovery time
Uses for VATS surgery
Chest (thoracic) surgeons at Mayo Clinic use VATS to diagnose and treat a range of conditions, including:
- Pleural diseases. The pleura is a two-layer membrane that lines the chest cavity and surrounds both lungs. VATS is used to remove air or fluid which can collect in the pleural cavity following a chest injury or disorder and lung surgery. Surgeons may also use VATS to perform pleurodesis, a procedure where medicine is injected into your chest to fuse the space between the lung and chest wall and prevent fluid from returning to the chest.
- Mesothelioma. A rare cancer of the membranes lining the chest, abdominal cavity or heart, mesothelioma can be diagnosed with a VATS biopsy.
- Lung cancer. VATS is used to remove pieces (wedge resection), lobes (lobectomy), fluid-filled lumps (nodules) and any suspicious spots on the lung along with a surrounding margin of healthy tissue. These tissue samples are then analyzed by an experienced pathologist to determine the stage of cancer.
- Interstitial lung disease. VATS is used to gather pieces of lung to make the proper diagnosis and guide treatment decisions.
- Empyemas. An empyema is a collection of pus and fluid that develops from a lung infection such as pneumonia. VATS is used to drain the excess fluid and allow the lung to re-expand.
- Granulomas. VATS can be used to diagnose and remove swollen (inflamed) tissue called a granuloma which can develop in the lungs.
- Lymphomas. Surgeons can remove tissue samples of abnormal lymph nodes from the chest cavity with a VATS biopsy to determine the type of lymphoma present.
- Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Chest surgeons use VATS to remove or cut the nerves that cause sweating (sympathectomy or sympathotomy).
- Pericardial effusion. VATS can be used to drain fluid from the sac surrounding the heart (pericardium), caused by a range of diseases and conditions.
The best candidates for VATS procedures are:
- Individuals who have never had chest surgery. Scar tissue from previous procedures can impede access to the chest cavity.
- People who are at high risk for complications if they undergo traditional, open chest surgery.
Read more about granulomas and pericardial effusion at MayoClinic.com.