Changing the Way Surgeons Save Lives

Changing the Way Surgeons Save Lives

At Thoracic Group, Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) Means Patients Recover Faster, Easier and with Fewer Complications

Somerset, NJ –  June 15, 2008 – Technology is changing the way doctors practice medicine, and nowhere is that more evident than at Thoracic Group, where an innovative procedure, Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS), has radically changed the way surgeons operate.

In 1990, Thoracic Group surgeons performed their last scheduled thoracotomy, a highly invasive procedure that involves a 10- to 14-inch incision and cutting through muscle and ribs to “crack” open the chest.  Since then, Thoracic Group surgeons, national leaders in the development of VATS, have provided nearly 5,000 patients with a surgical option that promises a faster, easier recovery, fewer complications and significantly reduced morbidity.

VATS entails making four small incisions, each about an inch long, through which surgeons insert a thoracoscope and special surgical instruments.  Once in, surgeons maneuver the tiny camera to look behind and between organs and inside the chest wall. These images are in magnified on computer monitors, giving surgeons an unparalleled view of the patient’s chest cavity.  At least once, Thoracic Group surgeons have spotted and removed a metastasis that, due to its location on the underside of the chest wall, would have gone unnoticed in open surgery.

While Thoracic Group surgeons use VATS most frequently on lung conditions ranging from cysts to cancer, VATS is also used to treat conditions affecting the thymus, mediastinum and esophagus.  A VATS procedure takes less than an hour, and patients go home the next day and resume normal activities in a week to 10 days, compared to a thoracotomy which last several hours, and requires a hospital stay of 10-14 days and a recovery period of six to eight weeks. Surgical and post surgical complications drop significantly as well, from 30 to 5 percent.

“We want patients to understand that if a doctor tells them they need surgery, and urges them to have a thoracotomy, there is a better, less invasive procedure.  In almost all cases, VATS is not only an acceptable alternative, but the preferred alternative. ” said Dr. Robert J. Caccavale, a Thoracic Group surgeon.

To understand how fast the recovery is, consider this: William Reynolds, an avid bicyclist, asked Thoracic Group surgeons to remove a benign tumor the size of a tennis ball from his chest. Five days later, Reynolds was back on his bike, and six weeks after surgery, he pedaled 100 miles for the Livestrong Challenge in Philadelphia.

“Thirty years ago, my dad had traditional chest surgery and I’ll never forget the pain and agony I saw him go through,” Reynolds said. “I knew that VATS was the only way to go.”

Because VATS is minimally invasive, it is also an excellent choice for the elderly and the very ill, whose conditions might prohibit a traditional open surgery.

“VATS gives the elderly and the very ill chances at recovery that they didn’t have before,” said Dr. Jean-Philippe Bocage, a Thoracic Group surgeon.  “There’s nothing as gratifying as telling someone who lives with chronic discomfort that a VATS procedure is not only safe, but likely to ease their suffering.  The look of hope in their eyes is priceless.”

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Learn more at, or by contacting Tracey Keller at 732-247-3002 or [email protected].