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Thoracic surgery is a specialized field of medicine that involves the surgical intervention of the chest cavity. This may include medical procedures performed on the lungs, heart, and esophagus. Surgery of this nature can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from minimally invasive techniques to exploratory manipulations for diagnostic means to highly invasive procedures for the treatment of trauma and disease.

Some examples of medical procedures which employ thoracic surgery techniques may include the following:

  • Heart and Lung Transplants
  • Coronary Bypass
  • Implantation of Assistive Devices (Pacemakers, LVADs, etc.)
  • Removal and Biopsy of Lung, Esophageal, Heart, or Chest Tissue to Confirm Disease
  • Removal of Tumors or Damaged Tissues Within the Chest Cavity
  • Flail Chest Injuries
  • Collapsed Lungs
  • Pneumothorax

In general, these procedures are performed by practitioners specially trained in this field of medicine. This may include cardiothoracic surgeons, trauma doctors, and heart specialists.

A physician who specializes in thoracic surgery focuses on pulmonary and esophageal diseases and injuries. As such, they are sought out to diagnose, treat, and repair lung and esophageal tissue compromised by trauma, illness, or congenital factors. Meanwhile, heart specialists and cardiac surgeons are usually brought in to deal with issues involving the heart. In emergency cases, trauma surgeons may be called upon to treat accident and urgent care victims who have suffered thoracic injuries or are in mortal danger due to compromising medical conditions.

Case in point, for a patient who is suspected to have lung cancer, a thoracic surgeon may be called upon to remove tumors, nodules, and lymph nodes to confirm the cancer diagnosis. At the time of diagnosis, the stage and specifics of the malignancy will also be determined. Moreover, lymph nodes are extracted to verify whether the disease has spread to other tissues or organs. All of these steps are taken in order to establish a clear picture of the extent of the ailment and develop the best course of treatment.

As previously stated, there are a variety of thoracic surgery techniques that may be employed depending on the extent of the disease or injury. These applications could be limited to minimally invasive thoracic surgery procedures, such as video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) or robotic thoracic surgery techniques, or a thoracotomy (open chest surgery) may be required. A thoracotomy is necessary when large portions of the inner chest cavity or lung must be exposed.