VATS is a type of chest surgery that requires making tiny openings in the chest. During VATS, the doctor makes small, keyhole incisions and uses a tiny camera (called a thoracoscope) and other small tools. Images from the camera are sent to TV monitors. The doctor relies on these images to do the surgery.
Reasons for Procedure
VATS is used to diagnose and treat a range of conditions. Common reasons to undergo VATS include:
CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the chest
Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)—a test that records the heart’s activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle
Tests to evaluate how well the heart is functioning
Leading up to the surgery:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure (eg, aspirin, clopidogrel, warfarin).
If you take insulin, you may need to adjust your dose. Talk to your doctor about this.
Arrange for someone to drive you home and to help you at home.
Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
VATS is usually done using general anesthesia. This will block pain and keep you asleep during surgery.
Description of the Procedure
You will be connected to a ventilator. This is a machine that moves air in and out of your lungs. Depending on the reason you are having VATS, one lung will be completely or partly deflated. This will allow your doctor to have a better view of the chest cavity on that side.
Several small cuts in the skin will be made along your side. Carbon dioxide gas will be used to fill the chest cavity. The gas will make it easier for the doctor to see internal structures. Through one of the incisions, the doctor will insert the thoracoscope. This camera will send images to the TV monitors. The doctor will rely on these images to do the surgery. Other small tools will be inserted into the cuts. These tools will allow the doctor to grasp, cut, dissect, and suture.
When the surgery is done, the tools will be removed. The lung will be inflated. A chest tube will be placed to drain any air or fluid. The doctor will close the incisions with sutures or staples.
Immediately After Procedure
If you are doing well, the breathing tube will be removed. In the recovery room, the hospital staff will monitor your vital signs. You may be given fluids and medicines through an IV.
How Long Will It Take?
1-2 hours (depending on the procedure)
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will have pain after surgery. Your doctor will give you pain medicine.
Average Hospital Stay
You may be able to go home the next day. If you have VATS for a lobectomy (removal of part of the lung), the usual length of stay is 3-4 days.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
Fluids and pain medicine through an IV line
Assistance sitting up and moving around soon after surgery
Directions on how to do deep breathing and coughing exercises—You will learn how to use an incentive spirometer. This device helps you expand your lungs when taking a deep breath. This will prevent pneumonia.
Chest x-rays to monitor healing—The drainage chest tubes will be removed once your lungs are healed.
Instructions about nutrition and physical activity
Follow your doctor’s instructions, which may include:
Take pain medicine as directed. Some pain medicine causes constipation. To prevent this, drink plenty of fluids and eat high-fiber foods.
Continue to use the incentive spirometer. Do deep breathing. You will also be encouraged to cough.
Keep the incision area clean and dry.
Limit certain activities until you have recovered.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
Cough or shortness of breath
Coughing up yellow, green, or bloody mucus
New chest pain
Signs of infection, including fever and chills
Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from an incision site
Difficulty urinating (eg, pain, burning, urgency, frequency, or bleeding)
Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a