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Our surgeons have pioneered the use of minimally invasive surgery for lung cancer. Dr. Robert McKenna, Jr. was one of the first surgeons in the United States to perform the surgery and has the most extensive experience in the world with the procedure. This minimally invasive technique appears to reduce the hospital stay and allows a patient to return to full activities without compromising the adequacy of the cancer operation.
A thoracotomy (the standard incision for lung surgery) entails a six- to eight-inch incision around the side under the arm. Chest wall muscles are cut, and the ribs are spread. These incisions usually cause significant pain.
Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS)
VATS is a minimally invasive technique that uses small incisions and eliminates the need to spread the ribs. During VATS, the surgery is performed through a one-inch incision and is aided by a miniature camera inserted through one of the three 1/4 to 1/2" incisions. The VATS approach is certainly not painless, but it does hurt less than a large thoracotomy. The average hospitalization after the operation is four days, and patients usually do not require a stay in the intensive care unit.
Our thoracic surgeons have performed more than 1400 lung cancer operations with this approach since 1992. We recently published the case follow-up, which demonstrated that the procedure is as effective as the more invasive approach.