Thoracoscopy is a procedure in which an endoscope is introduced to visualize the pleural space. Thoracoscopy can be used for visualization (pleuroscopy) or for surgical procedures.
Surgical thoracoscopy is more commonly referred to as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).
Pleuroscopy can be done with the patient under conscious sedation in an endoscopy suite, whereas VATS requires general anesthesia and is done in the operating room. Both procedures induce a pneumothorax to create a clear view.
Thoracoscopy is used for
Evaluating exudative effusions and various pleural and lung lesions when less invasive testing is inconclusive
Pleurodesis in patients with recurrent malignant effusions when chemical pleurodesis is not indicated or has been ineffective
Breaking up loculations in patients with empyema
The diagnostic accuracy for malignant and tuberculous disease of the pleura is 95%.
Common indications for VATS include
Bullectomy and lung volume reduction surgery in emphysema
Correction of spontaneous primary pneumothorax
Lobectomy and pneumonectomy (in some centers)
Lung parenchymal biopsy
Less common indications for VATS are
Biopsy and staging of esophageal cancer
Excision of benign mediastinal masses
Repair of traumatic injuries to the lung, pleura, or diaphragm
Sympathectomy for severe hyperhidrosis or causalgia
Contraindications to thoracoscopy and VATS are the same as those for thoracentesis How To Do Thoracentesis Thoracentesis is needle aspiration of fluid from a pleural effusion. Thoracentesis may be done for diagnosis and/or therapy. Diagnostic thoracentesis Indicated for almost all patients who have... read more .
An absolute contraindication is
Adhesive obliteration of the pleural space
Biopsy is relatively contraindicated in patients with highly vascular cancers, severe pulmonary hypertension, and severe bullous lung disease.
Although some pulmonologists do pleuroscopy, VATS is done by thoracic surgeons. Both procedures are similar to chest tube insertion How To Do Tube and Catheter Thoracostomy Surgical tube thoracostomy is insertion of a surgical tube into the pleural space to drain air or fluid from the chest. Pneumothorax that is recurrent, persistent, traumatic, large, under tension... read more . A trocar is inserted into an intercostal space through a skin incision, through which a thoracoscope is inserted. Additional incisions permit the use of video cameras and accessory instruments.
After thoracoscopy, a chest tube is usually required for 1 to 2 days.
Complications of thoracoscopy and VATS are similar to those of thoracentesis and include
Postprocedural fever (16%)
Pleural tears causing air leak (2%) and/or subcutaneous emphysema (2%)
Serious but rare complications include
Patients are also at risk of the complications of general anesthesia.