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Thoracic Oncology Program »  Patient Center »  Thoracic Oncology at UCSF »  Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery

Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery

The Thoracic Surgery team at UCSF has helped to pioneer in the use of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), a less invasive surgical procedure that can be used to remove tumors from the chest, esophagus, and lungs. Minimally invasive surgery decreases post-operative pain, shortens hospital stays and allows a more rapid return to normal activities.

Instead of traditional procedure, a thoracotomy, where the chest is opened using a large 6- to 8-inch incision, surgeons make three small 1-inch incisions and insert a lighted tube and video camera (a thorascope) and operated using special tiny surgical instruments.  The camera transmits images of the operative area back to a computer monitor, guiding the surgeons as they manipulate the instruments. This video-assisted thoracic surgery or VATS results in:

  • Less post-operative pain
  • Reduced risk of Infection
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • More rapid return to normal activities
  • Faster initiation of post-surgical (adjuvant) chemotherapy
  • Better tolerance of standard adjuvant chemotherapy dose

Most all traditional thoracic surgeries (lobectomy, sleeve resection, wedge resection  and  esophagectomy) can be performed using minimally invasive techniques.  In our program today,  fully thirty-percent (30%) of all surgeries are performed in this way. Because UCSF is a high volume center, our surgeons have already extensive experience in performing minimally invasive surgery in the chest. Moreover, all have training on this procedure at academic medicine programs located at centers of excellence for thoracic surgery.










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