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Ann Thorac Surg. 1997 Jul;64(1):211-5.

Video-assisted thoracic surgery: has technology found its place?

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Columbia Hospital at Medical City Dallas, Texas, USA.



Since the introduction of minimally invasive surgical techniques in thoracic surgery in 1990, video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) has become the approach for many thoracic operations. The role of VATS has slowly evolved but has not been clearly defined. To better understand the role of VATS, we undertook a survey of practicing thoracic surgeons.


A questionnaire was sent to members of the General Thoracic Surgery Club asking the role of VATS in their practice and their opinions regarding appropriate applications, advantages, and limitations of the approach.


Two hundred of the 229 members (87.3%) responded to the questionnaire. In this largely academic (66.3%) group of thoracic surgeons, 72% of whom had more than 10 years experience in general thoracic surgery, VATS was the preferred approach (> 50% response) for the management of pleural disease, lung biopsy, recurrent pneumothorax, and sympathectomy. A majority of respondents thought that VATS was an acceptable approach for the diagnosis of the indeterminate pulmonary nodule and of anterior and posterior mediastinal masses, and for the management of early empyema, clotted hemothoraces, secondary pneumothorax, limited lung cancer treatment, and benign esophageal disease. Video-assisted thoracic surgery was thought to be unacceptable or investigational by a majority for thymectomy, lobectomy, and lung volume reduction operations. Video-assisted thoracic surgery still represents only a small portion of the thoracic procedures performed, but there is a gradual increase in its rate of use, although 38.1% expressed concern regarding overuse. The main limitation was thought to be in the management of oncologic disease.


It appears that VATS is a valuable addition to the practice of thoracic surgery, but significant limitations exist. Although there appear to be many specific indications defined, there is still a significant evolutionary component.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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