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da Vinci ® Thoracic Surgery at Our Los Angeles Center

Thoracic surgery can be a lifesaving or life enhancing treatment for many diseases and disorders. However, it can also be very scary for patients. The traditional open approach to operating on the lungs or other structures in the upper chest, called thoracotomy, is highly invasive. The incisions used to reach the required area can be very extensive, and in some cases, the chest must be “cracked open” or the ribs spread apart to provide sufficient access. Even if the ribs and sternum are spared, the trauma to surrounding tissues can be substantial. It’s not surprising that a patient who undergoes such an extreme operation may spend up to a week in the hospital followed by more than a month of recovery time at home.

What about thoracoscopic, endoscopic and video-assisted procedures? Due to restricted access in the thoracic cavity and the fact that nearby vital structures are delicate (nerves, arteries, etc.), thoracic surgery using such techniques is often limited to very simple procedures. The cramped quarters make it too dangerous to try complex surgery without a clear field of vision and fine motion control. The instruments used may also be incapable of maneuvering to reach deeper areas of the chest cavity.

However, da Vinci Surgical System – a revolutionary robotic technology – has finally made minimally invasive surgery available for a broad range of thoracic surgeries and miVIP Surgery Centers have brought it to the outpatient arena. Not only does this system provide up to 10x magnification and 3D stereoscopic visualization, it also translates the surgeon’s movements into smaller motions with remarkable precision. Tremor filtering technology makes each motion even smoother and safer on this tiny scale. Trauma to surrounding tissues is reduced and the potential for inter-operative complications drops as a result.

What Types of Thoracic Surgery Can Be Done at miVIP Surgery Centers?

There are dozens of surgeries that can be carried out in the chest cavity using this state-of-the-art robotic equipment. The outcomes tend to be excellent. That’s why miVIP's skilled and highly experienced surgeons are using the da Vinci Surgical System to replace open surgery for more and more procedures. Here are a few common surgeries that can be routinely done very successfully on an outpatient basis with the da Vinci technology:

Lymph Node Surgery: Surgical biopsy and removal of the lymph nodes in the chest is critical for understanding how far cancer has spread in patients with lung cancer and to determine the best course of treatment. Lymph nodes anywhere in the body can be removed using robotic surgery, but the advantages may be greatest in the thoracic region where other surgical techniques are sometimes contra-indicated.

Sympathectomy: This surgery for reducing excessive palm sweating and other symptoms of abnormal sympathetic nervous system response can be scary but important for a higher quality of life. It may involve cutting into the spinal cord and severing nerves, so it makes sense to use equipment that allows a surgeon to operate with the greatest degree of control and visualization.

Wedge Resections: Patients who are poor candidates for a full lobectomy may still be successfully treated by removal of a lung tumor and a margin of surrounding tissue, leaving the rest of the lobe intact. Robotic surgery makes wedge resection available to a broader range of patients who might otherwise not have a surgical option for cancer treatment. This approach also features a recovery time that is about half that of open surgery.

Benefits of da Vinci for Thoracic Surgery

In addition to offering a high degree of dexterity and accuracy, the da Vinci technology has a number of other benefits.

  • When compared to other minimally invasive thoracic procedures, da Vinci offers a simpler approach with better access and maneuverability. It decreases the likelihood that the surgery will be changed to an open procedure mid-operation.
  • Difficult procedures such as the removal of large tumors can be done robotically, saving patients from having to undergo invasive and painful open surgery.
  • Patients don't require hospitalization after a da Vinci procedure.
  • They lose less blood during the operation and are less likely to require a transfusion.
  • Less trauma to internal tissues and greater precision leads to a lower rate of complications.
  • Pain after the procedure is much more manageable and patients may stop using pain medications sooner.
  • Return to regular activities is significantly faster (sometimes just a couple of weeks rather than one to two months).
  • Scarring is minor because incisions are less than half an inch long, as compared to the large and unsightly scars that accompany a traditional thoracotomy.


Why is it important for patients to know about the latest medical advances like da Vinci surgery? For some cancers and other diseases in the thoracic region, surgery has not previously been an option. In other cases, only open surgery could be performed. That has changed now, but not every doctor has this information. This means patients who don’t get a second opinion from a surgeon who specializes in robotic techniques may not know about all their options. It’s not fair for patients to discover after the fact that they could have had a more effective treatment or a shorter recovery time!

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