As medical treatments modernize, the surgical landscape is changing. Doctors are now offering lung cancer patients an operation that’s less traumatic but equally effective.
“It’s called VATS or Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery. So rather than making a larger incision in the chest wall and using a rib spreader to see exactly what’s going on in the chest. We can use a small incision with a five mm camera, which is about a quarter of an inch, and look at the image on the TV screen and operate,” says Dr. Paul DiGiorgi, cardiothoracic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
In a VATS procedure, doctors make several small incisions in the chest. A scope with a camera on the end guides the surgeon to the tumor. From here, the mass or lobe is cut, bagged and removed through one of the holes.
“You can still take out as much or as little lung as you ever wanted to before. But it’s with much better visualization. You can see areas of the chest that are very hard to see if you’re looking directly through the ribs. And it allows you to do it much less invasively,” says Dr. DiGiorgi.
Lung cancer surgery often took a stressful experience and made it even more traumatic. The go-to operation was major and left behind effects that could linger for years.
“The approach was very different. The approach was an incision that would be up to 18 inches long. It would extend from the back all around to the front. And really opened people up a lot and cut through a lot of chest wall muscle. That made the incisions extremely painful. People were still in pain decades later from those incisions. But that was the state of the art at the time,” says Dr. DiGiorgi.
With today’s techniques, patients are recovering faster with fewer days in the hospital.
“It’s a huge advantage for pain and reducing respiratory complications. They have much lower chances of getting pneumonia and other problems like that. And as a result they’re out of the hospital faster,” says DiGiorgi.
And better able to move on with life.