Thoracoscopy is minimally invasive thoracic surgery performed with the use of small fiber optic cameras to look inside the chest. Thoracoscopy is also known by the initials VATS, or Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery. Thoracoscopy is similar to laparoscopy, except that "lapar" refers to the abdomen, and "thorac" refers to the chest. (The term "oscopy" is derived from Latin, loosely interpreted as "to look".) Thoracoscopy is performed using small incisions and small instruments to examine the inside of the chest and to perform limited operations inside the chest.

A video thoracoscope is made up of three basic parts: a light source, a fiber optic tube that feeds the light into the chest, and a digital video camera, It works like this: very bright light is fed through the fiber optic tube into the chest. The view inside the chest is transmitted back through the tube (the endoscope) to the camera, allowing the image from inside the chest to be displayed on a television screen. The surgeon can look around freely inside the chest, watching the image on the television screen.

In addition to the thoracoscope, other small instruments may be inserted into the chest through additional small incisions to perform biopsies of tissue, excisions of masses, or division of nerves.

What procedures can be done?
A number of procedures can be done using VATS to treat a variety of disorders.

Biopsies: Lung nodules (SPN’s); Interstitial lung disease; Mediastinal lymph nodes; Mediastinal masses; Pleural abnormalities; Chest wall masses; Esophageal tumor

Drainage: Pleural effusion; Empyema; Lung abscess

Excision: Lung nodules; Lung biopsies; Apical blebs (for pneumothorax); Mediastinal masses; Mediastinal lymph nodes; Pleura For pleurodesis

Treatment of Hyperhydrosis; Causalgia; Reflex sympathetic dystrophy; Pneumothorax; Pleural effusion; Empyema; Limited stage lung cancer in high risk patients; Spinal disc disease