Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to diagnose and treat problems in your chest.

During a video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery procedure, a tiny camera (thoracoscope) and surgical instruments are inserted into your chest through small incisions in your chest wall. The thoracoscope transmits images of the inside of your chest onto a video monitor, guiding the surgeon in performing the procedure.

Mayo Clinic's approach

Why it's done

Surgeons use the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery technique to perform a variety of operations, such as:

  • Biopsy to diagnose lung cancer, mesothelioma and other chest cancers
  • Esophagus surgery (esophagectomy)
  • Hiatal hernia repair
  • Lung surgery, such as surgery to treat lung cancer and lung volume reduction surgery
  • Procedures to remove excess fluid or air from the area around the lungs
  • Surgery to relieve excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • Surgery to relieve gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Thymus gland removal surgery (thymectomy)

When compared with a traditional open operation (thoracotomy), video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery may result in less pain and shorten recovery time.


Possible complications of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) include:

  • Pneumonia infection
  • Bleeding
  • Temporary or permanent nerve damage
  • Anesthesia-related effects

Talk with your doctor about these and other risks of VATS.

How you prepare

You may need to undergo some tests to determine whether video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a good option for you. These may include imaging tests, laboratory tests, pulmonary function tests and cardiac evaluation.

If you are scheduled for surgery, your doctor will give you specific instructions to help you prepare.

What you can expect

Usually people undergoing video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) are given a general anesthetic, which means they are asleep during surgery. During video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), a doctor puts a breathing tube down your throat into your trachea to provide oxygen to your lungs. Then a surgeon makes small incisions in your chest and inserts specially designed surgical instruments to perform the procedure.

You may be in surgery one to two hours, though that can vary depending on your situation.


If you are having VATS to biopsy tissue, you may undergo further surgery, depending on the results of the biopsy.

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) care at Mayo Clinic

Oct. 21, 2016
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Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS)