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Clinical Services at Rush VATS  A Patient's Story

A case of pneumonia turned out to be Donald's best friend.

An active man in his 70s, Donald had been troubled for some time by a persistent cough. Over-the-counter remedies didn't help. What's more, he began to have night sweats — a symptom he had never before experienced. His wife urged him to visit his primary care physician, Lawrence Layfer, MD.

An X-ray revealed pneumonia. Layfer prescribed a course of antibiotics, and the cough soon disappeared. A subsequent x-ray revealed that the pneumonia had cleared. Donald felt great. Layfer, however, remained concerned about a suspicious area on the x-ray, so he ordered a CT scan.

"The patient's pneumonia started to clear on the chest x-ray and he started to feel better," he says. "Still, there was something that the radiologist and I were concerned about, and we thought it best for the scan to be seen through the eyes of a surgeon."

Layfer turned to thoracic surgeon Michael J. Liptay, MD, who agreed that something on the scan did not look right. The two physicians weighed the risks of needle biopsy against the risks of waiting. Ultimately, says Layfer, he and Liptay decided that they "all would sleep better at night" having ruled out cancer. Liptay and Layfer recommended a needle biopsy. Donald agreed to undergo the procedure, which revealed lung cancer.

"The fact that the patient's symptoms did get better, in some cases, would have led to closing the book," Liptay says. The fact that Layfer continued to check to make sure the x-ray returned to normal was the key, he says, to Donald getting the immediate care he turned out to need.

"One of the things that made this quite a bit easier for Donald was the minimally invasive surgery that Dr. Liptay offered," Layfer says. Donald concurs. "Incredible, incredible," he says. "I've got a two-inch scar. I couldn't believe it."

The minimally invasive surgery that Donald underwent is called video-assisted thorascopic surgery, or VATS. VATS allows surgeons to insert a camera through a keyhole incision and view the entire lung on a video screen. As in a standard lung cancer surgery, VATS involves removing the affected area of the lung and nearby lymph nodes.

Unlike standard cancer surgery, it involves a much smaller incision and does not involve spreading the ribs. Consequently, patients spend less time in the hospital and recover much faster than with standard surgery. At Rush, approximately 70 percent of patients who require lung cancer surgery can undergo the minimally invasive approach. The team at Rush, led by Liptay, has more experience with VATS than any other center in the Chicago area.

Donald continues to be amazed by his experience at Rush. "To spend a weekend in a hospital having cancer surgery, go home, recover a little bit and then go play golf? You can't ask for a better deal than that." A sculptor, Donald was able to take up his artwork again soon after his surgery. For his part, though, he considers his surgeon a true artist. "The creativity in what Dr. Liptay does is life-saving. This is an artist."

Thoracic Surgery at
Rush University Medical Center

The thoracic surgery program at Rush University Medical Center is home to Chicago's most experienced practitioners of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and pioneers in the diagnosis and treatment of thoracic cancers and disease.

Thoracic surgeons at Rush specialize in state-of-the-art minimally invasive and traditional approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of cancerous and benign disorders of the lungs, chest wall, esophagus and diaphragm.

For more information about thoracic surgery at Rush visit our Thoracic Surgery home page.

Contact Phone
(312) 738-3732
Contact E-mail

LocationHours of Operation
Rush Professional Office Building
1725 W. Harrison St., Suite 774
Chicago, IL 60612

Call (312) 738-3732 for inquiries about office hours or to arrange an appointment.

LocationHours of Operation
Rush North Shore Professional Office Building
9700 N. Kenton, Suite 604
Skokie, IL 60076

Call (312) 738-3732 to inquire about office hours or to arrange an appointment.

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