Thymectomy for Myasthenia Gravis
In Myasthenia Gravis (MG), communication between the body's nerve impulses and muscles becomes disrupted, causing weakness in the voluntary muscles. The thymus gland, which lies in the chest area beneath the breastbone and makes white blood cells, is believed to play an integral part in this autoimmune disorder. Removal of the thymus (surgical thymectomy) is recommended for almost all patients with MG.
Approximately 10 to 15 percent of patients with MG will have a thymoma, a type of cancer that begins in the thymus. About 30 percent of those patients diagnosed with a thymoma will have MG.
Minimally Invasive Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) can be used to remove early stage tymoma tumors. VATS does not require the spreading of the ribs and results in smaller incisions which could mean less post-operative pain and a shorter hospital stay. During VATS, a surgeon makes small pencil-sized holes in the body while video equipment is used to provide a magnified view of the surgical site. Endoscopic instruments are inserted through the small incisions and to perform the surgery.
Thoracic surgeons at George Washington University Hospital also perform Robotic Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery using the daVinci robot, which provides both 3D Visualization of the surgical field as well as more flexible instrumentation. Just as with the VATS procedure, robotic surgery does not require the spreading of the ribs and results in smaller incisions which could mean less post-operative pain and a shorter hospital stay. During robotic surgery, the surgeon makes small pencil-sized holes in the body and inserts robotic arms. A camera is also inserted to provide a 3-D magnified view of the surgical site.