Thoracic surgery involves procedures taking place in the thorax (chest). The thorax is the space between the neck and the diaphragm also known as the chest. Thoracic surgery generally includes the lungs, the lung lining, the esophagus, the chest wall, and other structures in the mediastinum (middle of the chest).
Open surgery is one that takes place via a larger open incision. This type of surgery is very common, especially in operations where the doctor needs lots of room to maneuver. Minimally invasive surgery, on the other hand, involves operating through small ports rather than one large incision. One of these ports is for a camera, and the other two are for surgical instruments. This type of surgery is known as VATS, or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. The most recent addition to thoracic surgery is robotically-assisted surgery. Combining the benefits of minimally invasive surgery with the mobility of open surgery, robotic surgery can offer substantial benefits to patients.
Robot-assisted thoracic procedures are performed using the da Vinci® Surgical System. Instead of standing and operating over the patient, the surgeon sits at a special station and sees a 3-dimensional (3-D) view of the surgery. This special camera magnifies the image 10 times larger than normal. The station allows the surgeon to expertly manipulate the arms of the robot. Foot controls allow the surgeon to operate using four arms rather than two. The arms of the robot have interchangeable tools that allow the surgeon to perform very intricate surgery. The tools of the robot are very small, but are more flexible and more mobile than the surgeon’s fingers. This allows surgeons to complete complex surgeries using smaller incisions in more confined regions of the body.
Lung cancers, esophageal diseases, and chest masses are examples of diseases treated by robotic surgery. Robotic surgery is not for every patient. Type of disease, past medical history, overall general health, and many other factors are important in determining the best treatment. Your team of physicians will help you decide the best course of action for your individual disease. For some patients, other types of minimally invasive surgery or even traditional open surgery may be a more appropriate option.