Also known as: thoracoscopic lung or pleural biopsy, thoracoscopic surgery for decortication, empyema, mediastinal or lung tumor, or thymoma.

What is thoracoscopy?

A thoracoscope is a long, thin camera used to inspect the lungs and internal chest cavity. Thoracoscopy can encompass simply viewing the lungs and their surroundings or it can refer to using instruments to operate on the lungs by passing them through small tubes called ports.

What happens during the procedure?

Each thoracosopic operation is planned specifically for the patient’s individual problem.  To start, a half-inch incision is made for passage of a hollow tube into the chest. The thoracoscope is inserted through the opening to view or inspect the lungs and chest cavity.  If needed, surgical instruments can be inserted at other small incisions to perform the operation under video-guidance, as viewed via the thoracoscope. Often, a small drain is left in the chest afterwards to evacuate air or fluid.

Is any special preparation needed?

Most patients have imaging studies in advance to fully plan the operation.  The patient may need to avoid food, drink or certain medications for a period of time prior to the procedure. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and with an IV.

What are the risk factors?

Infection, bleeding, injury to thoracic organs, pneumonia and a collapsed lung are potential complications of thoracoscopy. These are unusual, however, and most patients have no unexpected issues after the surgery.

What is the recovery like?

Many children go home within 24 hours of surgery. If there is a chest tube left in place, that is usually removed at bedside the next day. While discomfort is minimal at the small incisions, the pain team is available to assist with keeping the patient comfortable.  Older children will be encouraged to get out of bed almost immediately, and they will have breathing exercises to re-expand the lung and help prevent pneumonia.

Reviewed by: Cathy Anne Burnweit, MD

This page was last updated on: January 20, 2022 04:41 PM