Skip to Content

Video Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery


Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS)

is surgery to look at your lung with a scope. A scope is a long tube with a camera on the end. VATS is usually done to diagnose or treat conditions of the lungs and pleura (thin lining covering the lungs). These conditions include infections, cancer, and too much air or fluid in the chest cavity.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have severe pain.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Prepare for VATS:

You may need to have pulmonary function tests (PFTs) before your VATS. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He will tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery. You may be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection.

During VATS:

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given regional anesthesia to numb the surgery area. With regional anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery. You should not feel any pain in your chest.
  • Two or 3 small incisions will be made between your ribs. Your healthcare provider will deflate one of your lungs. This will allow him to see your entire chest cavity. You will lie on your side. Your surgeon will insert a scope and other small instruments through these incisions. Your surgeon may remove a sample of tissue or a mass from your lung. He may also remove a part of the lung if needed. All but one incision will be closed with stitches or medical glue. A chest tube will be placed through the incision that is left open. It will drain extra fluid and air from around your lung. The tube will also help your lung fill with air.

After VATS:

You may have to stay in the hospital for up to 4 days. Your chest tube will be removed once your lung is fully inflated and all extra air or fluid is removed. You will not be able to drive or go back to work until your healthcare provider says it is okay.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Antibiotics help prevent infection caused by bacteria.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs that you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Deep breathing and coughing will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath. Then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps as often as directed.
  • Walk several times per day. Start out with short walks around your house. If weather allows, walk outside. Slowly increase the time and distance you walk. Movement will help prevent blood clots. Movement also helps with lung function. Stop walking and rest if you have pain or shortness of breath.
  • Do not drive until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Do not lift heavy objects for 6 weeks. Do lift anything heavier than a half gallon of milk.

Wound care:

Care for your wound as directed. If you have steristrips they will fall off on their own. If they have not fallen off within 14 days, you may remove them. If you have stitches, you will need to return to have them removed. When you are allowed to bathe, carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. Gently pat the area dry. Check your incision for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or pus.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.