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Shrinking Lung Cancer Surgery: June 25, 2014

More people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Surgery, chemo and radiation are the triad of treatment.  Now, doctors are taking a new approach to surgery that is making the surgical experience a bit less traumatic.

“It’s called VATS or video assisted thoracic surgery,” says cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Paul DiGiorgi. He is on medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

“Rather than making a larger incision in the chest wall and using a rib spreader to see exactly what’s going on in the chest, we use a small incision with a 5 mm camera, which is about a quarter of an inch, and look at the image on the TV screen and operate on the screen rather than having to look on the chest directly.”

This is part of the trend in downsizing surgery. By shrinking equipment, doctors are able to make smaller incisions. With the operation being less traumatic, it is having a bigger impact on patient’s recovery.

“It is a huge advantage for pain and reducing respiratory complications. They have much lower chances of getting pneumonias and other problems like that. And as a result, they’re out of the hospital faster, they’ll feel better afterwards,” says Dr. DiGiorgi.

The video-assisted procedure, involves several small incisions in the chest. A scope with a camera on the tip guides the surgeon to the tumor. From here, the mass or lobe is cut, bagged and removed through one of the holes.

“You can still take out as much or as little lung as you need. But it’s with much better visualization.”

In many cases, the VATS procedure is used to both biopsy and surgically treat lung cancer- in a single operation.