Thoracoscopy is used to view the lung and the space surrounding the lungs (pleural space). Doctors may use it to view the lungs and pleura when less invasive tests do not give conclusive results.
Thoracoscopy can also be used for certain surgical procedures. When it is used for surgery, the procedure is often referred to as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).
The most common means for obtaining a sample of lung tissue for a biopsy is with a thoracoscope. Besides being able to view the lung surface and pleura, a doctor may take samples of tissue for microscopic examination and culture. A thoracoscope also may be used to drain accumulations of fluid in the pleural space (pleural effusions Pleural Effusion Pleural effusion is the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pleural space (the area between the two layers of the thin membrane that covers the lungs). Fluid can accumulate in the pleural... read more ). In certain cases, the doctor gives drugs through the thoracoscope to prevent a reaccumulation of fluid in the pleural space.
The person usually is given general anesthesia for VATS, but thoracoscopy can sometimes be done with the person awake but sedated. Then a surgeon makes up to three small incisions in the chest wall and passes a thoracoscope into the pleural space; this allows air to enter, collapsing the lung. After the surgical procedure, the thoracoscope is removed and a chest tube is inserted to remove air that entered the pleural space during the procedure, enabling the collapsed lung to reinflate.
Complications are similar to those for thoracentesis Thoracentesis Thoracentesis is the placement of a needle through the skin into the chest cavity to withdraw a sample of fluid. In thoracentesis, fluid that has collected abnormally in the pleural space (termed... read more and include fever, bleeding, infection, and leakage of air into the pleural space (causing pneumothorax Pneumothorax A pneumothorax is the presence of air between the two layers of pleura (thin, transparent, two-layered membrane that covers the lungs and also lines the inside of the chest wall), resulting... read more ) or tissues under the skin around the incision if the lung is torn. However, this procedure is more invasive, leaves a small wound, and requires hospitalization.
(See also Medical History and Physical Examination for Lung Disorders Medical History and Physical Examination for Lung Disorders A doctor first asks the person about symptoms. Chest tightness or pain, shortness of breath (dyspnea) either at rest or during exertion, cough, coughing up of sputum or blood (hemoptysis), and... read more and Respiratory System Overview of the Respiratory System To sustain life, the body must produce sufficient energy. Energy is produced by burning molecules in food, which is done by the process of oxidation (whereby food molecules are combined with... read more .)