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Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS): Before Your Surgery

What is video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery?

VATS is a way to do surgery inside the chest. With open surgery, the doctor makes one large cut in your chest. But with VATS, the doctor makes several small cuts. VATS also differs from open surgery because the doctor does not have to cut through the ribs or breastbone (sternum). The doctor can use VATS to find and treat many problems in the chest.

To start, the doctor will make several small cuts between your ribs. These cuts are called incisions. The doctor will put a thin, lighted tube with a camera on it into your chest. This tube is called a thoracoscope, or scope. It lets the doctor see inside your chest. Then the doctor will use tiny surgical tools to do the surgery. The doctor will close the incisions with stitches or staples.

How long you stay in the hospital and how long your recovery takes will depend on why you are having the surgery.

The scars from the incisions will fade with time. The area around the incisions may ache or feel numb in the weeks after surgery.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will probably take about 1 to 3 hours.
  • You may have one or more tubes coming out of your chest. They drain fluid and air.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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