Ask the Doctor: Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery

Keith Mortman, MD, FACS, FCCPFive years ago, only a couple of surgeons in the United States were doing robotic thoracic surgery. Keith Mortman, MD, FACS, FCCP – who specializes in minimally invasive thoracic surgery including use of a da Vinci® robot – has recently joined GW Hospital as Division Director of the Thoracic Service in the Department of Surgery and explains what advantages this capability brings to patients.

Q: What exactly is thoracic surgery and who performs it?

It’s a highly specialized field of medicine that provides surgical care for the organs of the chest, the area referred to as the thorax. General thoracic surgeons specialize in treatment of the lungs, esophagus, chest wall and mediastinum (space between the lungs). Surgeons who specialize in both the heart and the chest are called cardiothoracic surgeons.

Thoracic SurgeryQ: Why is minimally invasive thoracic surgery uncommon?

Because thoracic surgery involves extremely complicated surgical procedures, not many thoracic surgeons are using minimally invasive techniques. As research and practice of minimally invasive and robotic techniques grow, we’ll be doing more. Right now, it’s best to talk to your doctor about what options are available.

Q: What are some advantages of minimally invasive thoracic surgery?

The incisions are smaller and patients can have faster post-op recovery. If a lobectomy (removing a lobe of the lung for treatment of lung cancer) is done with a minimally invasive technique rather than with open surgery, it’s less traumatic for the patient. Studies have shown that these patients can tolerate chemotherapy better; there is less of an inflammatory response by the body and there is a lower level of pain.

Q: Is minimally invasive thoracic surgery available at GW Hospital now?

Yes, our ability to perform both simple and complex surgery has doubled overnight – and we are bringing in additional core team members. Our skills in thoracic surgery and our individualized, multidisciplinary approach to patient care are assets you can’t find at a community hospital.

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