Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive surgical technique that eliminates the need to spread the ribs during chest surgery.
It is used to treat patients who were born with a problem involving the heart or nearby blood vessels. Known as congenital heart disease, the condition affects approximately eight children in every 1,000 births. Defects can show up at birth, as the child grows or even in adulthood.
VATS is performed through a one-inch incision. The surgeon is aided by a miniature camera inserted through one of three quarter- to half-inch incisions. While VATS is not painless, it hurts less than a large thoracotomy.
The benefit of using VATS is that, in many cases, surgery takes less than an hour and the patient can leave the hospital 24 hours after surgery. Also the technique can be used on patients weighing as little as two pounds.