Thoracoscopy is used in pulmonary medicine. Read when thoracoscopy is needed and how it works!


The thoracoscopy is an endoscopic procedure for examining the pleural cavity. This is the gap-shaped space between the two leaves of the pleura. Thoracoscopy is used, for example, for suspected lung cancer or for pleural effusions of unclear origin. In addition, the doctor can also perform minor procedures in this procedure, for example, the removal of a tissue sample. Read all important information about thoracoscopy here.


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  • What is a thoracoscopy?

  • When do you perform a thoracoscopy?

  • What do you do with a thoracoscopy?

  • What are the risks of thoracoscopy?

  • What should I watch for after thoracoscopy?

What is a thoracoscopy?

Thoracoscopy is an examination method from the field of lung medicine. With their help, the doctor can examine the parts of the thoracic cavity from the inside, such as the lung lining or the lungs themselves. He introduces endoscopic instruments, including a camera, a lamp, irrigation and suction devices, into the thorax. The method is relatively simple and has a high significance. It can be performed either on an outpatient basis or as part of a hospital stay.

A special form of thoracoscopy is the so-called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, VATS for short. In doing so, the doctor uses the thoracoscope to carry out minimally invasive surgical procedures, for example the removal of a lung lobe (lobectomy).

When do you perform a thoracoscopy?

Thoracoscopy is used to examine the pleural cavity, ie the gap-shaped space between the inner and outer leaves of the pleura. This is helpful in the following cases:

  • unclear fluid accumulation in the pleural cavity (pleural effusion)
  • Suspected cancer of the lung or lung
  • diffuse diseases of the lung parenchyma
  • unclear inflammatory disease in the chest
  • recurrent accumulation of air in the pleural cavity (pneumothorax)
  • Cysts on the lungs

In addition, the doctor can use the thoracoscopy to take tissue samples or for pleurodesis: The lung surface is glued to the chest. This may be necessary, for example, in case of repeated pneumothorax or recurrent pleural effusions.

When should one not perform a thoracoscopy?

Some comorbidities prohibit the use of thoracoscopy. These include, for example, disorders of blood clotting or heart disease such as a recent heart attack, heart failure (heart failure) or arrhythmia (arrhythmia).

What do you do with a thoracoscopy?

You need to be sober for a thoracoscopy - you must not eat anything for about eight hours before the exam. The doctor will give you more detailed instructions in advance.

Before the examination, the doctor will give you a topical anesthetic and a tranquilizer. The thoracoscopy can also be performed under general anesthesia, so you will not notice the examination.

With a scalpel, the doctor makes a cut in the skin down to the rib and gets access to the chest cavity. Then the doctor puts on an artificial pneumothorax: By introducing air into the pleural cavity, the lung collapses. So the doctor has free sight and enough space for the instruments, which he now pushes through the small incision into the chest. For example, he can now use the camera to assess tissue changes.

At the conclusion of the examination, the doctor inserts a plastic tube, which removes the ingress of air or fluids from the thorax. By removing the air, the lungs can develop again and take up their breathing activity.


What are the risks of thoracoscopy?

Thoracoscopy is a relatively safe procedure. Relatively often, fever occurs after the examination. Rare, but possible consequence are:

  • bleeding
  • Penetration and injury of the lungs, nerves or blood vessels
  • Gas embolism or accumulation of air in the tissue (emphysema)
  • respiratory disorders
  • Circulation problems
  • allergic reactions to materials or medication used
  • infections

What should I watch for after thoracoscopy?

In the first hours after the exam, you are likely to have chest pain. This is normal and usually not a cause for concern. Your doctor may give you painkillers as needed. Following the thoracoscopy The drainage tube usually remains for one to two days until it is pulled.

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