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Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS procedure)

A thoracoscopy is the procedure to examine your pleural space with a special telescope. You may need one if you have chest pain and shortness of breath.


What is a thoracoscopy?

A thoracoscopy is a procedure that examines the space between your lungs and ribcage (called the pleural space) using a special telescope. A thoracoscopy is carried in order to determine the cause of any chest symptoms you might have.

A thoracoscopy, or pleurodesis, is also performed to treat a pleural effusion (where there is too much fluid in the pleural space) or a pneumothorax (where air escapes into the pleural space) that may cause your lung to collapse.

Ahead of the thoracoscopy you might undergo various tests such as: 

  • pulmonary function tests
  • chest x-ray
  • electrocardiography 

What does the procedure involve?

Your doctor will give you a sedative to help you relax. A thoracoscopy is sometimes performed under a general anaesthetic. A thoracoscopy usually takes about three-quarters of an hour.

If local anaesthetic is applied you will feel a little sting when the consultant injects it in the area. The consultant will then make small incisions on the side of your chest and insert the thoracoscope, a small, flexible tube through it. After inspecting the lung and pleura, the surgeon will remove any necessary tissue or fluid.

After the investigation is complete, the lung is re-expanded and the incisions are stitched to close the wound. A small tube might be placed there to drain any remaining air or fluid.

What complications can appear?

This is generally a safe procedure, however certain complications may arise such as:

  • Pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in the pleural space
  • Allergic reaction
  • Surgical emphysema
  • Pulmonary oedema
  • Pneumothorax

After the procedure your chest will remain sore for a while, but that can be managed with painkillers.

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after you have recovered from the sedative. A member of the healthcare team will tell you what was found during the thoracoscopy and will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need. You should be able to go back to work between one and five days after the thoracoscopy, but your consultant will advise you according to your situation.

Specialists offering Thoracoscopic surgery (VATS procedure)

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Dr Syed Ahsan

Consultant Cardiologist


The Cavell Hospital 2 more Hendon Hospital The Kings Oak Hospital

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Mr Qamar Abid

Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon


The Alexandra Hospital

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Mr Hussein El-Shafei

Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon


Ross Hall Hospital 1 more Ross Hall Clinic Braehead

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Dr Mohamed Al-Aloul

Consultant Chest Physician

BMSc(Hons), MBChB(Hons), MD, FRCP

The Alexandra Hospital

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Mr Ehab Shafik Bishay

Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon

MBBS(Lond.) FRCS(Eng.) MS(Lond.) FRCS(C-th)(Eng.)

The Priory Hospital

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Mr Joseph Zacharias

Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon

MBBS, FRCS (Surg in Gen), FRCS (CTh)

The Alexandra Hospital

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