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VATS Surgery for Lung Cancer

VATS Approach

The VATS approach allows the surgeon to access the problem area by using an endoscope and other small endoscopic instruments and endostaplers. These small instruments can be inserted into the chest through small 2-4 cm incisions made between the ribs (see image on the left).The scope allows the surgeon to view, under high magnification, the cancerous lung tissue and manipulate the instruments to effectively transect and remove the tissue from the body.

Traditional Open Approach

The VATS approach does not require any rib spreading, resulting in a less invasive procedure. In contrast, the traditional open approach, thoracotomy, requires a large 10-15 cm incision in order to gain access to view and treat the lungs, causing disruption to muscles and ribs (see image on the right).

VATS offers numerous benefits over the traditional open approach in early stage lung cancer treatment.These include:

  • Less pain after the operation,
  • Better immune system response,*
  • Better chance of breathing normally and
  • Better quality of life.

The table below details the differences between thoracotomy (traditional) versus VATS (minimally invasive). These results are typical — your patients’ results may vary.

Thoracotomy (Traditional) Versus VATS (Minimally Invasive)

TraditionalMinimally Invasive Surgery
Pain Incisions and your patients’ chest area may be painful for several weeks to months after surgery and sometimes longerWhile pain in the hospital will still occur, it is usually less than that experienced with a thoracotomy**
Incision Size One large incision 10-15 cmOne main incision 4-6 cm (usually 4.5 cm); multiple additional incisions, typically 2-4 cm
Anesthesia GeneralGeneral
Eligibility Stages I-IIIAStages I-IIIA
Length of Hospital Stay Up to 7 days3-4 days
Incision Placement

VATS Surgical Videos

View VATS surgical videos that are available on our video podcast site. To access the full-length videos, please click on any one of the links below.

VATS Lobectomy by a Standardized Anterior Approach VATS Thoracoscopic Lobectomy

*VATS is associated with reduced cytokine production.Cytokines regulate the immune system and certain cytokines associated with the body’s inflammatory response have been linked to a better lung cancer prognosis when they are at lower levels.

**Occasionally, patients can suffer longer term pain; however, current data indicates that two-thirds of patients do not require major pain management beyond 3 weeks.

These videos may contain graphic material that could be upsetting to some viewers; caution is advised.