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Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS)

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, or VATS, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat illness or injury to the lung and other organs in the chest cavity (thorax). This includes lung cancer.

During VATS, a tiny camera with a light source is inserted through a small incision between the ribs. A second small incision is used to insert special instruments between the ribs into the chest cavity.

Traditional thoracic surgery involves a large incision with rib spreading. This procedure, known as a thoracotomy, is more painful and takes longer to heal and return to daily activities.

Benefits of VATS

  • A shorter hospital stay (typically one to three days, but often the day after surgery)
  • Less pain and risk of complications after surgery
  • A faster return to a normal, active lifestyle (usually half the time as for a thoracotomy)
  • The ability to receive any necessary follow-up treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, sooner after surgery

Is VATS right for me?

VATS can be used to do the following:

  • Diagnose and stage lung cancer
  • Remove cancerous and benign lung tumors (called a lobectomy)
  • Diagnose and treat fluid around the lungs or heart
  • Remove portions of a diseased lung

Certain conditions are more effectively treated with open surgery. Your thoracic surgeon will discuss all of your options and determine which type of procedure will work best for you.

Why choose Rush for VATS

  • Thoracic surgeons at Rush have performed more VATS lobectomies than any other hospital in Illinois. Patients who undergo VATS surgeries have shorter hospital stays, less pain and a faster recovery compared to traditional open surgery.
  • Because of their expertise and skill with VATS, thoracic surgeons at Rush are able to use VATS for 74 percent of the lobectomies they perform for stage I lung cancer.
  • The average length of stay at Rush after lobectomy for lung cancer is 4.2 days (the national average is 7.3 days).
  • The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has designated the Rush Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery as a three-star program for lobectomy. It is the society's highest rating and is bestowed only on the top five percent of thoracic surgery programs in the U.S.