Overview and Facts about Video-assisted Thoracoscopy (VATS)
Video-assisted thoracoscopy (VATS) is a type of minimally invasive thoracic surgery used to diagnose problems in your chest. In this procedure, your doctor will insert a small camera into your chest through a small incision.
The doctor can then move the camera around to see the cause of your problems. Many doctors use video-assisted thoracoscopy to:
- Perform a biopsy (collect a piece of tissue) to diagnose cancer
- Perform lung surgery, such as removing a tumor
- Reduce fluid buildup in the lungs
- Remove parts of the esophagus (part of the throat that connects to the stomach)
What to Expect
What to Expect during Video-assisted Thoracoscopy (VATS)
Before video-assisted thoracoscopy begins, you’ll be given anesthetics to make you unconscious for the procedure. When you’re asleep, the surgeon will make a few small cuts into your chest. Then they will insert the tube with the camera inside your body while moving it through the incision as necessary to get a good look in your thoracic (lung) area.
The camera will display images on an external monitor, which the surgeon will use as a guide. If the procedure is meant to remove tissue or fluid, the surgeon will insert other small tools as necessary into your chest.
Usually, the entire procedure takes two to three hours.
What are the Side Effects of Video-assisted Thoracoscopy (VATS)?
Right after surgery, you will be a bit disoriented due to the anesthesia. You’ll also have some soreness in your chest, though this should be minimal.
Depending on what was done during the video-assisted thoracoscopy, you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days as you recover. During this time, you’ll probably feel weak and tire easily.
You may also have some chest tubes placed in your body to help remove any fluid that’s collecting in your lungs after tissue removal.
What are the Risks with Video-assisted Thoracoscopy (VATS)?
As with any thoracic surgery, there are risks involved with video-assisted thoracoscopy. If bacteria get into your chest, you can develop pneumonia, a type of lung infection.
Other associated risks include internal bleeding, organ damage or nerve damage.
It may be possible to develop an air leak or a partially collapsed lung if you had an extensive procedure done, but this is unlikely.
Finally, it’s always possible (though rare) to suffer complications from the anesthesia, which can involve everything from nausea and vomiting to death.