A thoracotomy is a procedure in which a surgeon accesses areas within the chest cavity to analyze any problems with the heart including the heart, esophagus, diaphragm and the aorta. This procedure is generally performed when a patient requires the removal of all or part of a lung, or needs immediate treatment for disease.
Because there are a large amount of blood vessels transferring blood to the lungs, there is a serious risk of hemorrhaging. Therefore, surgeons may need to perform a blood transfusion to remedy blood loss and prevent further damage. Other associated risks may include unfavorable reaction to medication or anesthesia, such as vomiting, high blood pressure and nausea. Infection is another potential risk of a thoracotomy procedure.
A video-assisted thoracic surgery is an alternative procedure that carries fewer risks of infection and scarring, because it is performed through a smaller incision. In this surgery, a small lighted tube is inserted into the chest wall to navigate the area around the lungs through a video monitor, allowing for greater precision.