Washington University lung surgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital offer a minimally invasive approach for removing lung cancer when characteristics of the tumor allow.

The procedure — called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) lobectomy — involves making a 4- to 5-cm incision for removal of the tumor and two other small incisions for a camera and another working instrument. Video-endoscopic equipment allows the surgeon to view the lung and perform the operation. This approach contrasts with the standard thoracotomy procedure, during which the surgeon spreads the ribs, and occasionally must break a rib, to gain access to the lung tumor and tissue to be removed.

VATS lobectomy may be used in early-stage lung cancer. The tumor must be small enough to be removed through the 4- to 5-cm incision that is made during the procedure. In addition, the location of the cancer is important in determining whether a VATS lobectomy is appropriate for a patient. Whether a VATS lobectomy or traditional operation is performed, Washington University lung surgeons seek to obtain the same results in terms of both patient safety and performing the same resection (cancer removal).

Early data in the medical literature indicate that VATS lobectomy may provide some benefits found with other minimally invasive surgeries such as decreased postoperative pain and length of hospital stay and a quicker recovery. As the procedure is performed more frequently nationwide, these advantages may be confirmed by clinical studies.

The VATS approach has been used for many years for conditions such as pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and diseases of the pleura (lining of the lung) as well as for lung biopsies. Washington University lung surgeons have been performing the VATS lobectomy since 2005 and were among the first in the St. Louis region to perform the procedure.

Lung surgeons who perform the VATS lobectomy

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