Video-assisted thoracoscopy (VAT) is an evolution of traditional surgery using small incisions to insert a video scope, with which to see the inside of the chest cavity on a monitor, and the surgical instruments required depending on the complexity of the procedure. One of the main advantages is that, in patients requiring chemotherapy, this can be started just a few days after the operation, instead of having to wait several weeks to start treatment, as with conventional surgery. Furthermore, the patient may be released 48 hours after surgery and, according to specialists, 72 hours after surgery recovery is almost complete, so the patient can return to his/her social-working life sooner.
What is more, video-assisted thoracoscopy also reduces post-operative pain in the chest wall, improves early mobilization and minimizes damage to the immune function and the need for post-operative pain relief. The technique also reduces the incidence of complications and gives a better esthetic result.
In spite of all the benefits, there are currently very few centers in Europe practicing the technique regularly on lung cancer – mainly due its complexity. Actually, in Europe, only 10% of thoracic surgeons are familiar with the approach, and in Spain, there are only three hospital units of this kind.
Thoracic tumors that can be treated with video-assisted thoracoscopy include lung nodules, bronchogenic carcinoma, mediastinal tumors and cysts, benign chest tumors and lung and chest metastasis.