La Coruna. Espana
Beyond the theoretical
The Advanced course on uniportal VATS differs from the rest of the courses covered here at Thoracics.org in that it goes beyond didactic lectures and surgical demonstrations. The three day course, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson is one of the few to offer hands-on training in a one-day ‘wet lab’.
During the lab portion of this course, attendees are encouraged to perform several lobectomies using the uniportal approach while being proctored by several well-experienced surgeons including Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas himself, and his surgical colleagues (Dr. Maria Delgado Roel, Dr. Mercedes Del la Torre and Dr. Ricardo Fernando Prado). These surgeons make up the world famous thoracic surgery department at the Coruna University Hospital. They are joined by Dr. Miguel Congregado, another Spanish surgeon from Seville, who is also well experienced in uniportal VATS.
While there have been multiple discussions among STS and other organizations regarding the minimum training required for surgeons to be credentialed and to practice Uniportal VATS and other advanced surgical techniques in their respective hospitals – the wet lab gives no doubt as to the need for ‘hands-on’ experience for even experienced VATS surgeons*.
Lecture content becomes reality
Powerpoint discussions, video demonstrations and even the most engaging lectures on bleeding complications quickly take center stage once surgeons enter the lab.
For surgeons who have spent their time watching Dr. Gonzalez Rivas perform a complete lymph node dissection in under 9 minutes, the lab is eye opening.
Despite being cautioned during lectures on preventing and managing bleeding the day before, as well as short review immediately prior to entering the lab, essential pre-operative preparations on surgical trays are noticeably absent in the lab. None of the two man teams takes the time to place spongesticks on their mayo stands or make any other modifications to their instruments prior to making the initial incision.
One by one – with two notable exceptions, each of the 8 teams encounters catastrophic bleeding – injuries to the pulmonary arteries, accidental tears to the vena cava and other major problems. But that’s why they are here: to become familiar with uniportal surgery, its specialized instruments while being guided by experienced uniportal VATS surgeons. One by one, the surgeons remember the mantra of Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas: “Don’t panic!” as they maneuver and do the best to re-establish hemostasis. Surgeons practice placing stitches in the PA, and repairing the great vessels. All remember the first lesson Uniportal VATS – hold pressure. Some manage these complications quickly with relative ease, others struggle initially and some fail entirely.
Others, like the pair of general surgeons from the Netherlands demonstrate that despite a steep learning curve, success is possible with uniportal VATS. After initially learning traditional VATS in 2008, these surgeons had just 5 uniportal cases under their belt prior to coming to this course. However, each of their cases were completed quickly and without complications.
The wet lab was followed by a day of live-surgery performed by Dr. Gonzalez Rivas – where attendees could ask questions about his techniques during the operations. Their new found experience in the web lab served as a useful framework for their questions and observations.
*Dr. Gonzalez Rivas and his colleagues recommend attending several courses, followed by a web-lab and then finally, proctoring with an experienced Uniportal VATS surgeon.
Interested in learning uniportal VATS?
- Start by familiarizing yourself with the basics – watch YouTube and other surgical demonstration videos like the Virtual VATS uniportal lobectomy on December 3rd 2016, read articles and reviews.
- Attend conferences and moderated discussions on the technical aspects of uniportal VATS
- Observe ‘live-surgery’ events – like the week long courses at Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital
- Attend wet lab courses
- Finally, arrange for mini-residencies or mentoring at home facility as you begin to implement these techniques into your own practice. Be prepared to encounter bleeding and other complications and remember: Don’t panic!