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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Thoracic surgery

Cardiothoracic 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. Specialized thoracic surgeons treat lung and esophageal cancer while specialized cardiac surgeons treat the heart.

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, stage and treat the disease. Thoracic surgery to treat lung cancer may be performed using one of the following procedures:

  • Wedge resection: Removing the tumor and tissue surrounding the cancer
  • Anatomical segmental resection: Removing the tumor, the blood vessels, the lymphatic drainage and the lung segment where the tumor is located
  • Lobectomy: Removing the entire lobe of the lung with cancer, including the lymph nodes
  • Pneumonectomy: Removing the whole lung with the lymph nodes
  • Pleurectomy: Removing the inner lining of the chest cavity

Thoracic surgery procedures may be performed 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 is able to 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 method is:

  • Thoracotomy: 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). It also may be performed during other procedures.
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