BACKGROUND: Although thoracoscopy has been used for diagnostic and minor therapeutic procedures for many years, there have been few reports of its use in performing major intrathoracic procedures, which have traditionally required formal thoracotomy. METHODS: Twenty one patients (M:F 1.2:1; mean (SD) age 47.1 (18.8), range 17-75 years) underwent endoscopic intrathoracic surgery. Eight had unidentified peripheral masses on the chest radiograph, eight required lung biopsy, and five had recurrent or persisting pneumothoraces. Under general anaesthesia a laparoscope attached to a video monitor was introduced into the chest. One or two additional stab incisions were made as needed for the introduction of standard surgical or endoscopic instruments and staplers. RESULTS: There were no complications or deaths, though one patient developed a second pneumothorax seven days after endoscopic pleurectomy, necessitating open pleurodesis. All patients were discharged home from two to six days after surgery (mean (SD) 3.7 (1.2) days). CONCLUSION: Endoscopic thoracic surgery is a safe and useful technique for certain cases. It merits further investigation and assessment.
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