Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS)

Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) is a technique a surgeon may use to gain access into the chest cavity or "thorax".

Why use VATS?

Surgery is often the best, or only way to treat a disease. Patients may face a long and difficult recovery because traditional "open" thoracic surgery is highly invasive. In most cases, surgeons must make a long incision through chest muscles and then cut or spread the patient's ribs to reach the diseased area. As a result, patients may spend up to a week in the hospital and up to 4 to 6 weeks of recovery at home.

Today, a surgical technique known as video assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is enabling surgeons to perform many common thoracic procedures in a minimally invasive manner. Depending on the type of procedure, most patients have a shorter hospital stay than if they had traditional "open" thoracic surgery. The post-operative recovery time may also be greatly reduced.

Teaching VATS

What is VATS?

In most VATS procedures, surgeons operate through 2 to 4 tiny openings between the ribs. One opening is for a tiny video camera and the others are for surgical instruments. The surgeon is able to view the patient's internal organs on a television monitor while completing the procedure. Each opening is less that one inch in diameter, whereas 6 to 10-inch incisions are not uncommon in open thoracic surgery.

Because it can offer patients significant advantages over open surgery, many surgeons believe that VATS will one day be used in the majority of all thoracic procedures. At the present time, not all procedures can be done with VATS and not all patients are candidates for VATS. Only a thorough medical evaluation by your physician can determine if video assisted thoracic surgery is appropriate for you.

Because surgeons operate through 2 to 4 tiny openings instead of a long incision, many VATS patients experience less pain, less scarring, a shorter hospital stay and, in many cases, a quicker return to work and other normal activities than patients who undergo open surgery. In addition, because it is not necessary to spread or cut the ribs, patients avoid some of the "bone pain" associated with the open approach.

Minimally invasive surgical techniques have been used for nearly 3 decades, and today, more than 90% of all gallbladder surgery is performed using these techniques. Most recently, surgeons have applied minimally invasive techniques to a broad range of procedures including hernia repair, appendectomy, hysterectomy, heartburn surgery and bowel surgery.

After your VATS surgery, it is important to follow your doctor's instructions. If you are like most people who undergo a minimally invasive procedure, you will probably feel better in just a few days. However, it is important to remember that although you may feel great, your internal organs still need time to heal.