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Thoracic surgery

Thoracic surgery refers to operations on organs in the chest, including the heart, lungs and esophagus. Examples of thoracic surgery include coronary artery bypass surgery, heart transplant, lung transplant and removal of parts of the lung affected by cancer. General thoracic surgeons treat lung and esophageal cancer while cardiac and cardiovascular surgeons treat coronary artery disease.

Our Interventional Pulmonology Program provides advanced treatments for primary lung cancer, cancers that metastasize to the lung and airways, lung problems such as an obstruction in the airway and other chronic lung diseases.

Thoracic surgery is frequently used to assess or repair lungs affected by cancer, trauma or pulmonary disease. For lung cancer, your surgeon would remove nodules, tumors and lymph nodes to diagnose and stage the disease. Thoracic surgery to treat lung cancer may be done using one of the following procedures:

  • Wedge resection: Removing the tumor and tissue surrounding the cancer
  • Segmental resection: Removing the tumor and surrounding structures
  • Lobectomy: Removing the entire lobe of the lung with cancer, which is done for most lung cancers

Wedge or segmental resection may also be used to treat esophageal cancer. Thoracic surgery procedures may be done with either minimally invasive techniques or traditional open surgery methods.

Minimally invasive surgeries include:

  • Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS): Your surgeon inserts a long, thin tube with an attached camera through a small incision in your chest. This instrument is called a thoracoscope. Special instruments also are inserted through small incisions in the chest. Your surgeon operates while watching the video from the thoracoscope on high-resolution monitors in the operating room.
  • Robotic thoracic surgery: Like VATS, your surgeon can view the surgical site because a camera is inserted in the chest. Your surgeon operates at a console using controls that translate the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into movements of the instruments inserted in the chest.

Open surgery methods are:

  • Thoracoscopy: Your surgeon may use this procedure when it’s not necessary to see the entire lung or inner chest. Thoracoscopy is used to drain excess fluid from the lungs (pleural effusions), treat a collapsed lung and biopsy tissue (wedge resection).
  • Thoractomy: Your surgeon may opt for a thoracotomy when it’s necessary to see large portions of the lung or inner chest cavity. It may be done to remove the entire lung (pneumonectomy) or a portion of the lung (lobectomy).
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