One of the latest inventions in the field of medical science and technology is Video-assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS). The advent of this technique opened up new avenues for painless chest operations and reduced the recovery time.
VATS is a type of thoracic surgery that enables surgeons to diagnose and treat illnesses or injuries in the chest area, using minimum incisions. In this surgery, a tiny camera and surgical instruments are inserted in the chest, through small incisions made between the ribs. The camera (thorascope) generates images, which are transmitted to the numerous video screens for the surgeon to analyze.
This procedure induces a pneumothorax, similar to a pleuroscopic procedure for a clear view of the operated area. In case of lung cancer, the tumor is removed by the use of special equipment, which makes the operation less painful and quickens recovery. The field has evolved a lot, and now incorporates laparoscopic features as a routine process for general surgeons.
The VATS method enables surgeons to independently operate the bulky mass on the fringes of the lungs, with lesser ramifications. In conventional thoracotomy, doctors required more time, and it demanded a complex method, involving the tearing up of a large area. This translated into more effort and risk. VATS can also be used in diagnostic capacity, for detecting pneumonia, treatment of collapsing lungs, and minor infections of the chest walls.
Nowadays, many abnormalities are being detected using this procedure. The test includes a set of predefined steps to be followed before the surgery. A registered medical practitioner, who is the surgeon or a trained pulmonary specialist, can handle the procedure.
The general precautions taken before this surgery are the same as any operation. Pulmonary function tests or existing medications, such as insulin, anti-inflammation drugs, or blood clotting medicine intake, require prior examination by the doctor. A meeting with the anesthesiologist before going through the procedure is a mandatory step. The surgery is performed in the operating room, and begins with the placing of an intravenous line in the arm, for medications.
A tube facilitates breathing; nasogastric tube drains the stomach; and a catheter is put in the bladder to drain urine. In order to insert various tubes, an anesthetic, consisting of a mixture of gases is administered to the patient. In some cases, only one of the lungs is kept open for breathing, while the other one is deflated for a clear view of the chest cavity, on the side being operated.
For the entire duration, the patient rests on one side. Two small incisions are made in between the ribs; one of them, to let the camera in, and the other one to insert surgical instruments. The size of the opening varies, according to the size of the region being operated and the ambit of the operation. Once the procedure is completed, instruments are removed, the lung is inflated again, and all incisions are closed, except one. The remaining opening helps drain any leakage or fluid filled in the lungs, by inserting a chest tube through it.
Operations involving comparatively less complicated steps, such as pleural biopsies, pleurodesis, or pulmonary decortication, commonly employ VATS. Technically demanding procedures are performed only at specialized centers, using this technique, although its application is becoming common with each passing day. Surgeons who have performed it, swear by its applicability and prefer it, over other forms of treatment.