For people who need surgery for lung cancer and other lung diseases, Providence St. Peter Hospital now offers video-assisted thorascopic (VATS) lobectomy. This innovative, minimally invasive lung surgery can result in reduced pain, a faster recovery and fewer complication rates than a traditional lobectomy.
A lobectomy, which involves surgically removing the diseased part of the lung, is the most common surgery used to treat lung cancer. A VATS lobectomy differs from the standard version in several ways. With VATS, surgeons make smaller incisions – typically 1-3 inches in length versus 6-8 inches. They then thread a tiny video camera (called a thorascope) through one of the incisions. The camera allows them to view the lung on a flat screen monitor as well as precisely maneuver surgical instruments.
“The most important benefits of VATS lobectomy,” says cardiothoracic surgeon Ronald Quinton, M.D., “are the smaller incisions and the fact that we don’t have to spread the ribs to operate. This leads to less discomfort and pain along with a faster healing process and return to normal activity – whether work or play.”
In fact, says Dr. Quinton, approximately 70 percent of lobectomy patients could be treated with the minimally invasive VATS procedure. For the other 30 percent, a traditional lobectomy is still the best option due to issues such as the size or location of the tumor.
For people receiving a VATS lobectomy, recent studies have shown VATS to have similar success rates as standard surgery, says Dr. Quinton. “Faster recovery times and fewer complication rates are very beneficial. But the procedure also needs to result in the same cancer survival rates as a traditional lobectomy. After many years of evaluation, there is now agreement among physicians and researchers that survival rates are comparable.”