Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is a technology that has revolutionized general thoracic surgery, and has brought it to the minimally invasive realm. UC Davis Medical Center is a leader in VATS and was the first Northern California academic center to extensively use VATS to perform pulmonary resections for early stage lung cancer.

VATS utilizes 3-4 one to two inch incisions to gain access to the inside of the chest cavity. With VATS techniques, there is no rib spreading, "cracking" or dividing. The lung or the thoracic organ in question is visualized using a camera (thorascope) and displayed on a high definition screen. Using special minimally invasive instruments and staplers, abnormal tissue can be removed.

VATS can be used to biopsy suspicious lymph nodes or nodules on the lung or pleura, and clean out the space between the lung and chest wall (the pleural space) of fluid or infectious tissue. VATS is used to perform pulmonary resections or lobectomy for lung cancer, remove mediastinal masses, perform sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis, resect abnormal lung tissue for lung volume reduction surgery and many other thoracic procedures.

The advantages of VATS include shorter hospital stays, decreased post-operative pain and reduced usage of narcotics by patients, smaller post-operative scars, and earlier return to work compared to traditional "open" procedures.

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