Thoracoscopy is the insertion of an endoscope, a narrow-diameter tube with a viewing mirror or camera attachment, through a very small incision (cut) in the chest wall.
Thoracoscopy makes it possible for a physician to examine the lungs or other structures in the chest cavity, without making a large incision. It is an alternative to thoracotomy (opening the chest cavity with a large incision). Many surgical procedures, especially taking tissue samples (biopsies), can also be accomplished with thoracoscopy. The procedure is done to:
assess lung cancer
take a biopsy for study
determine the cause of fluid in the chest cavity
introduce medications or other treatments directly into the lungs
treat accumulated fluid, pus (empyema), or blood in the space around the lungs
For many patients, thoracoscopy replaces thoracotomy. It avoids many of the complications of open chest surgery and reduces pain, hospital stay, and recovery time.
Because one lung is partially deflated during thoracoscopy, the procedure cannot be done on patients whose lung function is so poor that they do not receive enough oxygen with only one lung. Patients who have had previous surgery that involved the chest cavity, or who have bloodclotting problems, are not good candidates for this procedure.
Thoracoscopy gives physicians a good but limited view of the organs, such as lungs, in the chest cavity. Endoscope technology is being refined every day, as is what physicians can accomplish by inserting scopes and instruments through several small incisions instead of making one large cut.
Tish Davidson A.M., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,