Our surgeons are highly experienced in a minimally invasive procedure known as thoracoscopy (also called video-assisted thoracic surgery, or VATS) as well as robotic VATS surgery.

Traditionally, whatever the amount of lung removed, chest surgery was performed through a procedure called a thoracotomy, which involves making a large incision in the chest. Today, many lung cancer operations can be performed using minimally invasive approaches, which limit the amount of tissue that is damaged during an operation.

Although this approach is not a fit for everyone, our surgeons increasingly use minimally invasive techniques like thoracoscopy to perform lung cancer operations, avoiding the need to make large incisions or damage the ribs. This results in faster recovery and makes it possible for patients who need further treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, to begin it more quickly.

While thoracoscopy is used in only 30 percent of eligible cases in the United States, nearly 60 percent of patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering are able to have this minimally invasive approach.

With thoracoscopy, only a few small incisions are necessary. Your doctor then inserts a small device consisting of a camera, a light, and other instruments and is able to operate on the lung and chest without spreading or breaking the ribs. Our thoracic surgeons use this approach for wedge resections, segmentectomy, lobectomy, and bilobectomy.

Our surgeons describe the benefits of thoracoscopy in comparison to traditional open thoracotomy as follows:

  • a reduction in the time that chest tube drainage is needed
  • shorter hospitalization
  • less pain
  • fewer complications, particularly in older patients

Robotic-Assisted Thoracoscopy

Robot-assisted surgery results in smaller incisions that offer the potential for less pain, less blood loss, a shorter hospital stay, and quicker recovery. In principle, the operation may be more effective and result in fewer side effects. Benefits and side effects may vary with each procedure. In fact, studies show that the results of any type of surgery depend more on the skill and experience of the surgeon than on the technology used.