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Risks and Benefits of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery

Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) surgically corrects certain types of physical diseases in the chest and upper abdomen. It uses smaller incisions than traditional open surgeries, resulting in less pain, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery times.

A key advantage of VATS is that it leaves the patient with less-compromised anatomy if future surgery is required to treat cancer or other lung conditions.

Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery Risks

Like all surgery, minimally invasive thoracic surgery has risks. These include bleeding, infection and injury to your organs. The risk of these complications is higher in patients with certain medical conditions, such as a heart condition, diabetes, lung disease or a history of previous surgeries.

In general, minimally invasive surgery results in less pain, faster recovery and fewer hospital stays than open procedures. However, you will still need time to regain strength and energy.

Unlike laparoscopic techniques that require spreading apart of the abdominal muscles, minimally invasive thoracic procedures eliminate the need for large incisions or sternotomy. These surgical approaches are safe and effective for most patients. In addition, they provide better postoperative outcomes and less surgical trauma compared to traditional open approaches.

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Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery Benefits

Compared to open surgery, minimally invasive techniques typically result in less postoperative discomfort, shorter hospital stays, and faster return to normal activities. They also may lead to lower perioperative costs.

The surgeon will insert a tube in your throat (endotracheal intubation) and insert one or more small surgical instruments into the chest through an incision under general anesthesia. Depending on the procedure, the surgeon will remove, repair or replace the organ or body part that needs treatment.

As the surgeon operates inside a closed chest, complications such as injury to the pulmonary artery or vein are rare and less common than with open surgery. However, other complications can occur, such as erroneous transaction of the lungs, carbon dioxide insufflation during robotic lung resection, and conversion to open surgery due to dense pleural adhesions.

The Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery team, including Armen Parajian, has extensive experience with both VATS and robotic thoracic surgery. Your doctor can help you decide which surgery is right for you.


A surgical approach that uses less-intrusive techniques to access the chest cavity can result in a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery from surgery and a return to normal activity sooner. This type of procedure is known as minimally invasive thoracic surgery or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).

The less-invasive approach to thoracic surgery can be used for many diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. For example, patients with emphysema can undergo lung volume reduction surgery, or LVRS, through one incision. This surgery reduces the air trapped in the lungs, improving breathing and overall health.

Talk to your doctor about whether minimally invasive surgery is an option. You should also be aware of the risks associated with any operation. It is important to find a surgeon experienced in performing minimally invasive procedures. You should also ensure your surgeon works with a team of specialists, such as medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, to provide the best possible care for you.


During minimally invasive surgery, your surgeon inserts long instruments that contain a camera into a small incision through your chest wall. The surgeon watches the camera on a high-definition monitor during surgery to guide the tools and help them perform repairs or remove tissue.

Previously, thoracic surgeons made long incisions through the chest muscles and spread or cut the ribs to gain access to the lungs. Patients had lengthy hospital stays and often needed weeks or months to recover at home before returning to normal activities.

Talk to your provider about whether thoracic minimally invasive surgery could be an option for you. Your doctor will consider your condition, medical history, and anatomy to determine if you’re a candidate. You and your treatment team should discuss any concerns about surgery or recovery. Your provider will also tell you how to prepare for your upcoming procedure, including stopping tobacco use and planning your hospital stay.


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