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Video Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What do I need to know about video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS)?

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.

How do I 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. You may be told not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. Your provider will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery. You may be given an antibiotic to help prevent a bacterial infection.

What will happen 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 surgeon will deflate one of your lungs to see your entire chest cavity more easily. 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. A part of the lung may also be removed. 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.

What will happen 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.

What are the risks of VATS?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. You may have air leaks in your lung that doesn't heal quickly. You may have to stay in the hospital longer or have other treatments. You made need more surgery if your healthcare provider finds cancer.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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