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What is VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery)?

VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery) is a type of minimally invasive surgery. It is used to diagnose and treat lung cancer, pleural effusion, and other chest and lung problems. VATS involves making at least two small chest incisions. Your doctor inserts a thoracoscope with a tiny camera to view the inside of the chest. The camera transmits pictures to a monitor. Your doctor can also insert special instruments through the incisions to perform treatments.

VATS is major surgery that has risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having VATS. 

Types of VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery)

The types of VATS include:

  • Biopsy to take a tissue sample and examine it under a microscope to diagnose cancer and other diseases
  • Lobectomy to remove a large section of lung
  • Mediastinal procedures to treat problems of the area between the lungs (mediastinum)
  • Pericarial procedures to treat problems of the area around the heart (pericardium)
  • Sympathectomy to treat conditions related to the sympathetic nervous system
  • Thoracentesis to drain excess fluid from the area between the lungs and chest wall (pleural space)
  • Thymus procedures to treat problems of the thymus, a gland located in the chest
  • Wedge resection to remove a small portion of lung tissue
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 7, 2013

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Medical References

Luh SP, Liu HP. Video-assisted thoracic surgery--the past, present status and the future. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2006 Feb;7(2):118-28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1363755/. Accessed July 5, 2013.
Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery. Harvard University. http://www.health.harvard.edu/diagnostic-tests/video-assisted-thoracic-surgery.htm. Accessed July 5, 2013.
Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery, VATS. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/thoracic/services/video_assisted.aspx. Accessed July 5, 2013.
Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS). University of Pittsburgh. http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/breathing/pages/video-assisted.aspx. Accessed July 5, 2013.

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