Many of the modern masters of thoracic surgery were in Potsdam, Germany this June to discuss a myriad of topics in this year’s course until the heading of Troubleshooting. The lecturers included Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas, the inventor of the uniportal VATS technique, Dr. Alan Sihoe, a renown expert from Hong Kong, Dr. Timothy Yang from Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital, Dr. Marco Scarci, the creator of International VATS, and our host, Dr. Mahmoud Ismail. The course included both wet and dry labs so that surgeons unfamiliar with these techniques had an opportunity to apply what they learned during this and other sessions.
Transcervical Uniportal VATS
Noted surgeon, and acknowledged expert in the area of transcervical VATS, Dr. Zielinski of Poland also gave a presentation on the transcervical uniportal approach, which is performed in the anterior cervical (neck) area. Using this collar incision, Dr. Zielinski is able to perform uniportal VATS for thymectomies and mediastinal operations as well as some lobectomies (generally upper lobes) and lung resections.
Dr. Zielinski talked about the challenges for this technique as well as the indications/ contraindications and potential complications while presenting data on his latest series of 32 patients. He gave surgical tips and tricks for using the transcervical approach, and how to avoid the most common complications.
There was a full session on setting up a uniportal VATS program with multiple speakers – along with troubleshooting the most common mistakes that surgeons (and their staff and administrators) make while starting a new uniportal VATS. They also talked about addressing the learning curve and ways to avoid common mistakes that occur during this period.
Common Complications after uVATS
Dr. Stefano Margaritora talked about how to prevent, detect and treat common complications after uniportal VATS. Drawing on his experience with over 1250 uniportal cases, Dr. Margaritora discussed the most common causes of bleeding such as dislodgement of vascular clips, bronchial artery bleeding, bleeding from lymph node harvesting sites and bleeding from the chest wall. He discussed the best ways to address this, such as use of newer anti-sliding clips, and the use of energy devices (like harmonic scalpels) for vessel sealing.
The ways to anticipate and prevent prolonged airleaks was also reviewed. Using anatomic fissures often lessens the incidence of airleaks post-operatively. The prevention of subcuatneous emphysema, as well as the relatively rare complication of lung hernia was addressed. Both of these complications can be reduced by meticulous and tight closure of the fascia at the conclusion of this procedure.
Using a serratus/ intercostal nerve block during this procedure is recommended to help reduce post-operative pain.
Dr. Firas Abu Ar spoke at several sessions – on both the use of uniportal VATS in pediatric patients as well as a case presentation on hydatid cysts. (Thoracics.org is planning to present this case study at a later date).
There was a session on robotic VATs but with the exception of a discussion of preliminary trials of a robotic instrument that allows for uniportal VATS, most of the information has been presented on previous occasions.
The state of evidence for Uniportal VATS
Dr. Alan Sihoe gave an excellent presentation on the need more more randomized studies, and higher level evidence. “The time for case presentations on uniportal VATS is over.” As the leading academic researcher at this conference (as well as an active, practicing uniportal surgeon), and editor of multiple journals, Dr. Sihoe reminded attendees that as uniportal vats use continues to grow, and becomes a more common procedure, the types of articles surrounding the procedure need to advance as well. It’s no longer sufficient to submit papers like case reports where the purpose of the paper is to explain the procedure, and basically say, “look at this cool case I did.” Surgeons need to move beyond these sophomoric writings to produce high quality, high value papers that add to the body of scientific literature around uniportal VATS. He then gave the audience specific, helpful guidelines and advice on designing, writing and submitting articles for publication.
After the didactic portion was completed, there were two live cases streamed from the local hospital for surgeons to review along with the dry and wet labs.
Note to readers: This will be the last article on uniportal VATS training. This topic has been extensively covered thru this and other posts here at thoracics.org. For more information on the essentials of uniportal VATS training, please review our archives under meetings and conference coverage.
Today’s recommended read is for all of the thoracic surgeons out there that are interested in establishing their own nonintubated uniportal programs. This is a interesting article if you’ve taken a masterclass on uniportal technique, reviewed the literature around nonintubated surgery, but haven’t yet taken the next step to start performing this procedure at your hospital.
Thoracics.org has reached out to the corresponding author, Sook Sung for more information about their experiences with nonintubated uniportal VATS including some updates, but let’s review the primary article while we await a reply.
In the article, Nonintubated uniportal video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery: a single center experience, Seha Ahn et al. discuss their experiences over a six month period after initiating this technique in January 2017.
During this period, 40 patients underwent this technique. Pre-operative patient selection was important with multiple exclusionary criteria.
Exclusionary criteria for initial cases: General
Obesity (BMI greater than 30
Anticipated/ expected difficult airway
Persistant cough/ or high amount of secretions
At increased risk of gastric reflux
Exclusionary criteria: Cardiopulmonary
Expected/ anticipated to have extensive adhesions
Prior pulmonary resection
N2 stage lung cancer
Severe cardiac dysfunction (exact definition not defined)
Anesthesia and Intra-operative Monitoring
Prior to the procedure, patients received dexmedtomidine. At the time of the procedure, patients were maintained with infusions of remifentanyl and propofol.
No patients were intubated. Patients did receive supplemental oxygen by mask at a rate of 6 to 9 liters/ min. Oxygenation was monitored with botha small single nostril end-tidal CO2 monitor and pulse oxymetry. Anesthesia monitoring including a BIS monitor. General hemodynamic monitoring consisted of continuous EKG/ telemetry and serial blood pressure cuff measurements.
As part of the surgical technique, the authors administered an intercostal nerve block for additional analgesia. In the majority of patients (35 of 40), intrathoracic vagal nerve blocks were also performed to reduce / prevent coughing during the procedure.
The procedure was carried out using a single 3 to 4 cm incision. The main surgical instruments used were a 10mm 30 degree scope, a harmonic scalpel and a curved suction tip catheter.
There were 40 total patients in this study, which spanned a period of six months. More than half of these patients (57.5%) were women. The mean age was 60.
The vast majority of these patients (72.5%) had lung cancer. Seven patients (17.5%) had surgery for pulmonary metastasis. The remainder of patients had surgery for either benign lung disease or pleural disease.
Over half of the patients underwent lobectomies (57.5%). 10 patients (25%) had wedge resections, with six patients having segmentectomies (15%) and a solo patient undergoing a pleural biopsy.
There were several intra-operative conversions. The majority of these conversions were related to anesthesia, with 3 patients requiring conversion to standard intubation. The authors are a little unclear with the reasons for this – with one sentence saying it was not related to hypoxia (with all patient sats greater than 90%). The authors then attribute the conversions to excessive respiratory movements, but then report that all three of the patients’ hypoxemia resolved with intubation. This is better explained in a later portion of the paper, but it is still a bit confusing as to whether excessive respiratory movement was a contributing cause for the reason to intubate mid-procedure.
There was only one conversion for surgical technique, which occurred after the dread pulmonary artery injury, with the authors converting to multi-port VATS. There were no conversions to open thoracotomy.
Seven total post-operative complications (17.5%)
3 patients with prolonged air leaks
1 delayed pleural effusion
Interestingly enough, outcomes based on traditional criteria, (chest tube days, and overall length of stay) were not significantly different that results published for more traditional types of thoracic procedures.
The average post-operative chest tube time was 3.2 days (range: 1-13 days)
The average hospital stay was 4.4 days (range 1 – 18 days).
There was one notable outlier listed, a patient with a prolonged airleak that resulted in a 20 day hospital stay.
This article is note worthy of several reasons, in that the authors both describe their techniques and the initial results of the initiation of a new surgical approach (nonintubated and uniportal) in their facility. The authors are to be commended for reporting research results that show a (17.5 %) high rate of complications, which is presumably related to the learning curve of adopting a new surgical protocol.
However, this article would have been much more informative if there had been more of an in-depth discussion of the challenges involved in initiating and managing a nonintubated uniportal program, instead of a general review of the literature. While the article notes that there was a solo surgeon involved in these 40 procedures, there is little discussion of the prior experience of that surgeon or the anesthesia team(s) involved. What the surgeon previously experienced in uniportal VATS? If so, what was the level of experience?
The same goes for the anesthesiologists involved in this study, since a large portion of the procedure (ie. the nonintubated portion) as well as the highest level of conversions (to standard intubation) occurred under their guidance. A short discussion about intra-operative intubation would have been a helpful addition for readers as well, such as a discussion of the difficulties (or lack thereof) of intubating a patient after they have been secured into a lateral decubitus position.
While the traditional outcomes measures appear fairly unchanged in comparison to standard VATS with general anesthesia and intubation, what was the difference in related outcomes?
Was there a difference in/ would they anticipate a difference in (with larger numbers of patients):
Post-operative intubation? How man patients required urgent/ emergent intubation during the post-operative period?
Post-operative pneumonias and other respiratory complications? While the authors cite one post-operative pneumonia, there appear to be few other respiratory complications cited in this study.
Post-operative anesthetic complications such as hemodynamic compromise (requiring prolonged use of pressors, for example). What about post-operative nausea/ vomiting or gastric ileus?
Since nonintubated and uniportal techniques have been proposed as a alterative to standard surgery for high risk patients (patients with poor respiratory reserve/ cardiovascular disease), the presence or lack of these complications in patients (even specially selected patients) is important.
When reviewing the lack of clear-cut advantages such as shorter length of stay, were there other reasons for it, such as post-operative nursing care? Are there changes that need to be implemented/ have been implemented since this study was published that have resulted in fewer chest tube days, or a shorter overall length of stay?
In the time since this study was concluded, what have been this group’s continued experience? Have there been any unexpected outcomes or observations? What changes continue to need to be addressed?
Are there any other observations that the authors would like to share? While traditional journals have size and article length limitations, we don’t here at thoracics.org.
Dr. Scarci has returned to his native Italy, and his first-born child, the International VATS Symposium has come with him. Now the chief of thoracic surgery at the 1,000 bed Ospedale San Gerardo, Dr. Scarci has again managed to assemble many of the world’s best and brightest in thoracic surgery.
Over 130 attendees participated in the live surgery, and lab event – with a multitude of other participants watching and commenting thru the CTSnet.org Live Streaming feature. While the majority of on-site attendees were from Italy, there were attendees and lecturers from around the world, including Myanmar, Panama and Pakistan.
The overarching theme of this year’s conference was segmentectomies (sublobar resections) but there were standout presentations in all areas.
The segmentectomy series of lectures discussed the differences between a wedge resection and a more anatomical sublobar segmentectomy). Piergiorgio Solli was not pleased to give his lecture on the anatomy and nomenclature of segmentectomies, and it showed. The usually composed surgeon was visibly irritated during his presentation.
Dr. Gaetano Rocco
The modern-day inventor of uniportal thoracic surgery, Dr. Gaetano Rocco discussed the latest data on morbidity and survival with segmentectomy. Formerly of Naples, but now representing Sloan Kettering in New York, made a point to discuss the difference between intentional segmentectomies (suitable for ground glass opacities and very small limited cancers) and “compromise” or forced segmentectomies, which are lung resections performed on patients with very marginal lung function. These forced segmentectomies are concerning for adequate margins.
He reminded surgeons that the scientific data isn’t always supported by our practice – while segmentectomies are superior to wedge resection, surgeons are doing wedge resections much more often even though the decrease in lung function (FEV1) after segmentectomy is only transient and limited in nature. He also reminded surgeons that no matter the operation, adequate lymph node sampling was essential and that to some extent survival is based not just on adequate staging (via proper node sampling), and good margins, but on the physical location of the primary tumor, (with subcarinal and basilar based tumors carrying the best survival.)
Alex Brunelli and Dr. Marco Scarci debated sublobar resection versus lobectomy on several different points – with Dr. Brunelli reminding the audience that segmentectomies are just 5% of all lung resections, and that 75% of all procedures performed in Europe continue to be open procedures – so that theoretical discussions on research findings as well as minimally invasive techniques (in general) aren’t being replicated in real world practice for the majority of surgeons.
Sublobar resections in the “Compromise” patient
Dr. Scarci discussed the current literature and evidence regarding respiratory outcomes on patients undergoing sublobar resections versus lobectomy. Surprisingly, in the majority of these studies, the difference in post-operative lung function is very small – and transitory. He discussed several of the limitations in currently published research which may have skewed some of these results, but that [at present] there is a lack of clear evidence to support the use of sublobar resection for preservation of pulmonary function.
Nodes, nodes and more nodes
Luca Bertolaccini gave an interesting lecture on lymphadenectomy in segmentectomies – which boiled down to: take more nodes. Do a complete and thorough lymph node dissection – and take at least TEN nodes.
Dr. Dunning: Fantastic style but still leaves you hungry
As usual, Dr. Dunning’s dramatic and charismatic style meant that he could argue just about anything in thoracic surgery and successfully acquit himself. But not without hurtling a live grenade into the audience – criticizing Gonzalez Rivas and his adherents multiple times for slavish devotion to uniportal techniques.
I guess without Dr. Lim there to make thoughtful and logical arguments during the conference, someone had to stir up a ruckus. Who better than thoracic surgery’s own Pied Piper? Part showman, and part infomercial salesman, Dr. Dunning did his best to argue for open surgery using the “It’s not the size of your incision, but the quality of the post-operative care” argument.
Despite his whimsical delivery style, Dr. Dunning was able to deliver the data – reams of it. Unable to resist a dig at the absent but larger-than-life Robert Cerfolio, Dr. Dunning repeated last year’s technique and cited a mountain of Cerfolio’s work in his defense of the humble thoracotomy, all while assuring the audience that “it’s not your grandfather’s thoracotomy.”
Using that thread, he went on to remind attendees of the importance of ongoing work in the area of massive resections for advanced cancers. He presented a myriad of published titles highlighting major chest wall resections and advanced techniques for metastatic disease.
His always enjoyable delivery style as also punctuated with praise for another one of the speakers, Dr. Joao Carlos Das Neves Pereira, and his “extreme rehabilitation” program. He also made a point of highlighting the published works of surgeons outside of the traditional confines of Europe and the United State, focusing on contributions of our colleagues in Brazil and Asia.
While it was a great lecture, it left the audience feeling a little bit hungry for more substance, instead of a remote control like flashing thru channels. It was the perfect set up for the end of the day lecture by Dr. Das Neves Periera. Too bad there were something like 12 other presentations between the two.
The fourth VATS International Symposium is this October 20th – 21st, 2017. As readers know, this course has been highly recommended in the past by Thoracics.org.
The preliminary program has been released, and it looks like audience favorite and straight shooter, Eric Lim will be opening the conference.
Italian thoracic surgeon, and the inventor of the first uniportal VATS procedure, Dr. Gaetano Rocco, along with the prominent American surgeon, Dr. Robert Cerfolio will also be presenting. There will be several presentations comparing uniportal VATS with robotic assisted surgical techniques (RATS). But this is more than an academic discussion – in addition to notable speakers, the conference includes live cases, practical tips and hands-on training.
Representatives from Storz will be speaking to thoracic surgeons on caring, repairing and maintaining thoracoscopic equipment. There are still spaces available for attendees, including the state-of-the-art wet lab. This wet lab offers surgeons the opportunity to try new techniques using 3-D models, while proctored by leaders in the field.
The first ever Thoracics.org Award to recognize innovation and achievement in thoracic surgery is now accepting submissions.
The Thoracics.org VATS International Award
Thoracics.org is pleased to announce our first international award for innovation and achievement in thoracic surgery. This award is designed to recognize and encourage research and publication in the area of VATS, including uniportal VATS.
This award is being offered by thoracics.org for a previously unpublished paper, study or case report on any aspect of thoracic surgery involving VATS (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery). Topics can include case reports on complex cases, use of VATS in specific populations or disease conditions, unpublished research results / retrospective analyses or similar themes.
This award will be presented at the VATS International conference in London, UK on October 20 – 21, 2017.
This year we are honored to be sponsored by VATS International and Dr. Marco Scarci.
VATS International 2017 – We’ve written about this conference in the past, so thoracics.org is very excited to be able to present the Thoracics.org award at the 2017 conference. This year’s roster of speakers and topics includes some of our favorites, as well as introducing some timely new topics such as certification in minimally invasive thoracic surgery.
Dr. Marco Scarci – Dr. Scarci is a thoracic surgeon at the University Hospital of London and the founder of VATS International.
Authorship: Papers must be the work of a sole author, and each author may only submit one entry. Entries are limited to practicing specialty thoracic surgeons, and surgeons completing their thoracic surgery fellowships. This contest is not open to general practice surgeons, or non-thoracic surgery specialties.
Originality: All entries must consist of previously unpublished work. Evidence of prior publication of material submitted for consideration is grounds for immediate disqualification.
Entry format: Entries consist of three (3) parts; the paper, the title page and the CV. Incomplete or partial entries may be ineligible for the award.
A. Paper specifications:
Papers must be written in English.
Maximum length is ten pages double-spaced with a 12 point font.
All submissions should be in Microsoft Word or a similar PC compatible type document. No pdfs will be accepted. Multi-media materials such as photographs, or short video clips may be attached to the paper for inclusion in the on-line publishing format. Video clips should be less than 10 minutes in length. No individually identifying information should be included in submitted photographs or videos.
B. A separate title page should be included with the essay.
This title page should contain:
-Contact information including physical address, email and telephone number
-Institutional or Academic affiliation(s)
-Name and contact information of immediate supervisor
C. (Optional) – Author photograph – as a separate attachment, labeled as first initial_lastname.
D. A current curriculum vitae (CV) should also be submitted as part the entry package, as a separate attachment.
Send all submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
All entries are submitted for publication at thoracics.org as a guest post. These posts will be published with the author of each paper to remain anonymous until the award winner has been announced. The winner of the Thoracics.org Award will be posted on thoracics.org on August 1st, 2017.
Following the announcement of the name of the recipient of the Thoracics.org Award, on-line articles will be amended to include author information, including name, affiliation, location and author photograph (if included with the original submission).
Judging of the entries received will be done by a panel of thoracic surgeons. The names of the members of the panel will be revealed at the awards ceremony. While visitors to thoracics.org may comment on published entries, these comments will not be part of the judging criteria.
The award will be presented in person at the 2017 VATS International conference in London, England.
In addition to receiving recognition within the international thoracic surgery community, the award recipient will receive*:
Complimentary registration to the 4th annual VATS International conference in London, UK. This course is one of the best courses on uniportal and minimally invasive thoracic surgery and includes content on uniportal vats, robotic surgery, awake and nonintubated surgery, and other minimally invasive techniques. The lectures are given by the masters of these techniques, including the master of uniportal surgery, Dr. Diego Gonzalez. This year’s preliminary line up of speakers and topics looks like another stimulating session of minimally invasive techniques interspersed with timely discussions on current issues in VATS (Registration courtesy of VATS International).
A copy of the new textbook, Core topics in thoracic surgery.
Core Topics in Thoracic Surgery provides accessible and concise coverage of the topics most often encountered in thoracic surgery practice. This handbook will guide the reader through revision of the topics covered in the FRCS(CTh) examination, and also covers more specialist topics in detail. In-depth technical sections offer guidance for difficult procedures, with useful commentaries from leading surgeons. A broad range of thoracic surgery issues are examined, with the latest evidence and information relevant to the speciality presented in a clear fashion. Combining an easy-to-use revision guide for trainees and a comprehensive reference text for cardiothoracic surgeons and recently appointed consultants, this is a one-stop guide to thoracic surgery. Authored by leading experts in the field, this resource will be invaluable to cardiothoracic surgeons, respiratory physicians and specialist nurses seeking to refresh or expand their knowledge of this field. (Textbook courtesy of Dr. Marco Scarci).
Additional sponsors include:
*Corporate and individuals wishing to co-sponsor this award may contact email@example.com
If you can only attend one thoracic surgery conference, shortlist VATS International.
VATS International (previously known as Cambridge VATS) is the brainchild of Mr. (Dr.) Marco Scarci. The Italian surgeon recently made the switch from NHS Papsworth (Cambridge) to the historic Royal London Hospital. Each year, Dr. Scarci gathers the world’s specialists on minimally invasive surgery to meet here in the United Kingdom to share knowledge and practice techniques for traditional VATS, uniportal approaches (standard and subxyphoid) and robotic surgery.
This is the third year of the conference and it’s reputation for dynamic speakers and controversy continues. With over 100 attendees, and a wide range of global participation as well as live surgery sessions and a wet lab, Dr. Scarci has had runaway success despite some last-minute challenges posed by his recent defection from the Cambridge facility. (Having met several members of the rather staid and traditional thoracic surgery department at Cambridge, Dr. Scarci, with his emphasis on minimally invasive surgery, is undoubtedly better-suited to the London-based facility).
Excellent lecture content, dynamic speakers
There were several excellent speakers, making it difficult to narrow the selections for presentation here. The obvious standout was Dr. Lim, (as discussed in a previous post).
As one of the course directors, and the inventor of the uniportal approach, Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas gave several lectures on the technique aspects of uniportal VATS.
Dr. David Waller followed up with a lecture entitled “Intra-operative problems in VATS lobectomy: Avoidance and Management.” He discussed complicating patient factors such extensive adhesions, anthrocotic lymph nodes, anatomical variance and incomplete fissures that increase the complexity of uniportal cases. He also identified common surgical problems such as difficulty identifying the target lesion, development of large air leaks and inadvertent damage to hilum or bronchus with strategies to prevent & manage these issues. He reviewed surgical techniques on bleeding control/ major vascular injury as well as absolute indications for surgical conversion such as equipment failures, airway injuries and stapler jams. In closure, he also warned against using conversion rate as an outcome measure. It was a fairly dry lecture despite being an interesting and important topic.
Among the remaining speakers, the overwhelming theme of change, and evolution along with an underlying sense of defiance continued. These surgeons are here to discuss, learn and practice uniportal surgery even if more traditional surgeons don’t approve.
Some of the best presentations were:
Dr. Alan Sihoe, (Hong Kong) gave a modified lecture called “Reasons not to perform uniportal VATS lobectomy”. This lecture which was adapted from a previous lecture from last year’s conference also addressed criticism of uniportal VATS. He reviewed the existing literature on uniportal surgery which suggests that uniportal surgery is a safe alternative to other surgical approaches.
During the lecture, Dr. Sihoe encouraged surgeons to move past case reports to performing higher level research such as randomized control studies to create evidence in the area of uniportal surgery. He also encouraged participation in the European database, to gather prospective data on uniportal surgery. Until there is a larger body of literature utilizing higher levels of evidence, uniportal surgery will continue to face significant (and justifiable) criticism as a fad procedure. While it wasn’t a ground-breaking lecture by any means, it was also a reminder for thoracic surgeons to think like a researcher. It was a good follow-up on Dr. Lim’s opening lecture.
Dr. Gaetano Rocco (Italy).
Dr. Rocco, one of the pioneers of the uniportal approach, continued the discussion of the need for evolution and adaptation but with a different approach in a talk entitled, “VATS major pulmonary resection for (very) senior surgeons. He extended an olive branch to older, experienced thoracic surgeons with limited experience with VATS. His lecture discussed the ways to remediate older surgeons, and build their skills and comfort level in performing VATS procedures. His lecture offered a clear-cut and concrete , step-wise curriculum and self-assessment tool for surgeons looking to improve their VATS skills, starting with VATS lobectomy.
Dr. Ali Khan (India) delivered two lectures, the first on operating room technology, but it was the second on uniportal surgery for inflammatory and infectious diseases that really piqued my interest. Part of this is due to my interest in the surgical treatment of tuberculosis, and my great appreciation for empyema as a surgical disease. Most readers know that reducing the time from presentation/ diagnosis of empyema to surgical decortication is one of my goals in daily practice, so any reminder that the morbidity/ mortality of decortications have been greatly reduced by minimally invasive surgery is always welcome.
Honorable mention: Dr. Alex Brunelli, “Fast track enhanced recovery for MITS”. Basically a talk on care plans with specific markers for timely progression and discharge. While this is standard fare for nurses, the use of care plans for many surgeons is unfamiliar territory. It would have been nice if the care plans were available as a handout for surgeons who are still fine-tuning their own programs. It also would have been nice for a better breakdown of how specific items reduced the length of stay (how/ how much) or decreased the rate of complications. Nice to mention care plans but better to have measurable and specific examples.
After the extensive lecture series on the first day of the conference, the second day was devoted to live surgery cases and the practice lab.
Since animal research of any kind is tightly controlled in the United Kingdom, 3D printed models were used for the wet lab portion of the course.
This is the first time that this type of model has been used. While the green plastic housing looks rudimentary, on closer inspection of the ’tissue’ inside, one gets a better appreciation for the models. The tissue is soft, and sponge-like. The lung doesn’t inflate but appears more lifelike than other models.
I don’t have the patience or temperament to shoot video footage, but I did record a couple of seconds so readers could have an idea what the wet lab portion of the course is like. In the video, Dr. Sihoe is instructing two trainees on the proper technique.
Despite its relative youth, VATS International remains one of the best conferences on minimally invasive surgery, inferior to none. This conference is highly recommended and considered superior to many of the traditional conferences on the topic (such as the annual Duke conference), due to lecture content on timely topics and controversial issues. The hands-on wet lab and participation by internationally recognized and globally diverse speakers makes this conference more valuable to attendees looking for exposure to newer surgical techniques.
Thoracics.org 2017 wish list
What would I like to see next year? As mentioned above, VATS International is one of the better courses available for surgeons interested in uniportal, subxyphoid and other minimally invasive techniques. But there is still more content I’d like to see – on nonintubated and awake surgery, for example.
However, with regards for this year’s speaker, an anesthesiologist from Papsworth Hospital, this topic would be better covered by one of the “masters” of the field; Dr. Eugene Pompeo of the Awake Surgical Group or Drs. Hung & Chen. The “Papsworth Experience” per se is limited to heavy sedation/ general anesthesia without mechanical ventilation. Patients still have LMAs and are heavily sedated. One of the main benefits of nonintubated anesthesia is the ability to operate on the medically fragile. It would be enlightening to hear more about operating on this population from more experienced clinicians. One of the topics that has been essentially ignored in the literature on this topic, is the implications for thoracic surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room and recovery room staff on operating on this population of sicker patients. I think readers would like to hear about the new challenges in managing patients that were previously inoperable due to serious co-morbidities.
A discussion on developing or actualizing a formal certification process with examination for minimally invasive surgery with suggested curriculum, and case log requirements would be a nice addition. Blackmon et al. published a credentialing guideline but it’s a multi-part overly complex document full of “levels” of competency. I’d like to see a discussion on the development of an actual certification to be offered by a surgical licensing body or surgical society. Since the American agencies would probably take another 20 years to consider the idea, perhaps one of the guest speakers’ native society would be more willing to take on this project?
I’d also like to see at least a limited amount of content on esophageal surgery. I know, I know..While practice areas for thoracic surgeons vary around the globe, with the rapid rise in esophageal cancer, a lecture on the role of minimally invasive surgical techniques for esophageal surgery would be a great addition to the current roster of topics, particularly if it was given by one of the modern masters of esophageal surgery like Dr. Benny Weksler or Dr. Roy Chen.
Lastly, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this conference is the truly international flavor. Watching a surgeon from Israel demonstrate uniportal techniques from a practice site in Shanghai brings home the importance of global collaboration. Hearing surgeons from India, Brazil, France and Canada present data on their practices is critical to gain perspective, and exchange ideas. It also helps prevent attendees from falling into the trap of “we’ve always done it this way.” This concept could be expanded to include designated global snapshots, to highlight research or data in specific geographic areas, like Dr. Khan’s lecture on uniportal approaches for infectious and inflammatory disease.
A full lecture on cost containment techniques for surgeons practicing in hardship areas would be a great topic. Dr. Sihoe touched on the issue during one of his lectures, but since I’ve heard other surgeons talk about the limitations posed by having only one thoracoscope, I’d love to see an equipment representative give a lecture on maintaining thoracoscopes, where to donate old scopes or how to rehab these scopes for a second life. A talk about modifying existing surgical instruments for surgeons who can’t afford the Scanlan set would be helpful as well. One of the reasons these courses have been so successful it the fact that they are technically based, so adding a section like this might help spread the uniportal technique to a whole socio-economic and geographic segment of patients that it might not otherwise reach.
This last item might be a tall order for Dr. Scarci and his group but he’s done pretty well thus far.
There were plenty of reasons for surgeons from all over Latin America to converge on Cuscu, Peru for the 2nd annual VATS PERU Uniportal Master Class, which covered the basics of the uniportal approach as well as nonintubated and awake uniportal surgery. There were subxiphoid and uniportal cases streamed live from Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital. But beyond the usual reasons of networking, discussing and sharing case knowledge, and the presentation of research findings and evidenced-based practice, there were several reasons why VATS Peru was more than just your average regional thoracic surgery conference.
Why attend VATS Peru? The three best reasons:
1. The wet lab – which allowed surgeons and their surgical assistants to apply the theoretical knowledge they learned during the first two days of lecture in operating room scenario en vivo. The “en vivo” is critical, fancy simulators aside, there is no better challenge to ‘book knowledge’, and application of practical skills than in the scenario of an operating room, with real models and active bleeding.
2. Lectures from the master surgeon himself; Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas: That’s where the second critical component comes in, in the form of the candid, direct and straight-forward lecture by Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas on Control of Inter-operative Bleeding. If you weren’t paying attention during this lecture, it’s obvious in the lab. This isn’t a computer course where you can dial in your answers, fast-forward thru lectures and print off a shiny new certificate. This isn’t a computer app, or a simulation that you can reset and re-start as soon as the surgery heads off course, to try again.. It’s real surgery.
3. Dr. Carlos Fernandez Crisosto
Lastly, if you didn’t attend VATS Peru, then you missed an opportunity to know and to talk to Dr. Carlos Fernandez Crisosto. VATS Peru is his brainchild, and the organization was created specifically to advance minimally invasive surgery in Peru. VATS Peru is separate from ALAT (the Latin American Society of Thoracic Surgeons), of which Dr. Fernandez is the current president. VATS Peru is also separate from the Peruvian Society of Thoracic Surgeons which has its own focus in the thoracic surgery specialty.
Dr. Fernandez, a Tacna native, works at Daniel Alcides Carrion Essalud facility in the southernmost region of Peru. He is the sole cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon for the city of Tacna, and performs cardiac, vascular, and endovascular surgeries in addition to general thoracic surgery. While he is a trained cardiovascular surgeon, (in addition to general thoracic) thoracic surgery is what he enjoys most.
He trained in Argentina, and practiced in Cordoba, Argentina for 23 years before returning to Tacna in the last few years.
His average case volume is around 380 surgeries a year, and he reports that all of his thoracic surgeries are generally performed using the uniportal thoracoscopic approach. He also does transplant, which requires him to travel to Lima specifically to perform the procedure. The transplant program is small and performs 4 to 5 transplants per year.
In his practice he sees the usual oncology cases, and empyemas but he also sees a large number of patients with tuberculosis, as well as an assortment of hydatid cysts, and pectus cases. Trauma from accidents, as well as injuries from guns, and knives also comprises a large part of his practice.
Dr. Fernandez is pleased with the success of his course, since this is only the second time the course has been available here in Peru. It was a complex logistical arrangement to hold the course in Cusco this year, but with the help of his wife, a professional events planner, they were able to pull of the event with very few hiccups. Next year, they plan to hold the event in Lima, the capitol of Peru and a city famed for its gastronomic offerings.
If you missed this year’s VATS Peru, look for VATS Peru 2017 here at Thoracics.org next fall.
Day One of the VATS Peru 2016 Conference was a primer for surgeons interested in learned and performing uniportal VATS. Dr. Gonzalez Rivas’ lectures formed the basis of theory and principles of uniportal thoracoscopic surgery, with additional lectures by Dr. William Guido, Dr. Timothy Young and Dr. Deping Zhao.
Surprisingly, many of the surgeons at the event informed me that they already use some uniportal techniques in their practice. But they came here to Cusco, Peru to learn more from the Master of Uniportal surgery himself, Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas before attempting more complicated and complex surgical cases like sleeve resections. Others came to learn more about nonintubated surgery in their uniportal patients. The remainders were the core group of surgeons who came to get their first taste of uniportal surgery.
Some came from the local areas; from Lima, from Chile, and Ecuador. Others came from other parts of Latin America; from Mexico and Costa Rico. There was even a practicing surgeon from the United States, who realized that if he wanted to pursue the most advanced surgical techniques and minimally invasive surgery in thoracic surgery, that he couldn’t do it at home. That’s a big paradigm shift for a surgeon from a nation that tends to think if it wasn’t invented in the United States, that it doesn’t exist, or has no merit. It is also, from my perspective, a welcome change.
In the five years that I have been travelling the globe, writing about surgical innovation, I am usually alone in my quest, in seeking innovation outside of American medicine. That’s not to say we(Americans) don’t have our own great surgeons – I can easily rattle off quite a few – but it’s an acknowledgment that surgical innovation (or any innovation in general) is not the exclusive domain of the United States. That sounds like a fairly basic principle, but one that is rarely seen in practice. American doctors and nurses just don’t attend international events to learn. They only attend to teach – and often leave as soon as their lecture is complete, ensuring that an accidental opportunity to be exposed to new ideas is minimized.
So it was a pleasure to meet the surgeon from California, who took time off from a perfectly successful practice performing routine thoracotomies, to learn more about uniportal surgery at this and another upcoming master course.
VATS Peru 2016 – learn uniportal and subxiphoid techniques in the wet lab, at the hands of the inventors of these techniques at this year’s conference in Cusco, Peru.
Cusco, Peru – September 2016
The 2016 VATS Peru conference and wet lab is scheduled for September 7th – 9th and this year’s agenda looks to be interesting and exciting.
Dr. Carlos Fernandez Cristoso is this year’s director of the course, and he has all the essentials of uniportal (single port thoracic surgery) VATS including special sections on : Management of intraoperative bleeding, difficult / advanced uniportal cases, and uniportal VATS on awake and nonintubated patients in addition to much of the standard uniportal fare.
Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas is honorary president of the course.
The course also includes lectures on the uniportal subxiphoid approach, as well as how to teach uniportal approaches to residents and fellows. The surgeons of Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital as well as Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas , the inventors of subxiphoid and uniportal approaches (respectively) will be there. The surgeons of Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital will be sharing their experiences of performing over 8000 uniportal resections a year, as well as presenting a live case direct from Shanghai during the conference.
Also – this conference is unique in offering an opportunity for surgical assistants, and scrub nurses to gain insight and share experiences in uniportal techniques with concurrent courses scheduled for operating room nurses. Both sections spend the last day of the conference in the wet lab applying newly learned techniques.
To register for this course – click here or e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn Uniportal VATS from the masters – with a hands-on wet lab..
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.
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!
Single port thoracoscopic surgery and awake anesthesia: the micro-invasive thoracic surgery? The current research and use of these state of the art techniques to bring minimally invasive surgery to complex surgery and high risk patients.
Instead of being greeted with enthusiasm or professional interest, the great majority of well-known giants in thoracic surgery dismissed the idea with a few, repeated sarcastic, albeit joking remarks about the inconvenience of having conscious patients in the operating room. This attitude seemed perplexing given the results of Pompeo et; al.’s (2014) survey of the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons, in which a large number of respondents (59%) reported using nonintubated thoracic surgery (NITS) procedures. These mixed attitudes led thoracics.org to perform an in-depth literature search to determine the state of non-intubated thoracic surgery.
What is the current status of non-intubated thoracic surgery (and the literature surrounding it)?
Is it a wild, unsustainable idea promoted by a few dynamic but misguided surgeons? Is it a well-researched and promising developing technique that is being rejected by surgeons who may lack vision? Or does it fall into that gray area where we suspect that this technique has real value and benefits for a special subset of patients but there isn’t quite enough high level clinical evidence to demonstrate that to the surgical community?
Is non-intubated thoracic surgery destined to fall to the same fate of VATS – a game-changing technique that emerged in the early 1990’s, has been clinically demonstrated to be superior to open surgery with an overwhelming preponderance of evidence, but still being discussed by many surgeons as the ‘new kid on the block’**? Will people still debate the merits of non-intubated surgery ad infinitude thirty years from now, even when clinical guidelines have made it the standard of care (like VATS and oncology surgery)? Will there be the same reluctance to set firm standards for training in these techniques?
“Not a new concept”
As it turns out – non-intubated thoracic surgery is not a new idea or concept. It was developed early in the 20th century and was used successfully for many years for even the most complex thoracic cases such as esophagectomies until the development of double lumen intubation in the 1950’s made the use of single lung ventilation possible (Gonzalez-Rivas et. al. 2015, Pompeo 2015, Kiss & Castillo 2015). Since its rediscovery in the last several years, many of the problems that plagued this technique during its inception over a century ago have been addressed through better understanding of human physiology. Now, this seemingly fringe technique has been shown to be a feasible approach for treating the very margins of the thoracic surgery population (the extreme elderly, patients with advanced respiratory disease or other serious medical co-morbidities) that are often deemed inoperable using current techniques.
The dreaded complication (spontaneous pneumothorax) of early use of this technique by pioneers in thoracic surgery has now become one of the main advantages. Surgically created pneumothorax results in almost perfect deflation of the operative lung, achieving better results than even the most experienced of anesthesiologists using traditional single lung ventilation. Surprisingly to many observers, instead of creating a ventilatory emergency, this process is readily tolerated by most patients, even those with poor baseline pulmonary function (David, Pompeo, Fabbi & Dauri, 2015).
The majority of the current series of research on this topic are being performed by a small group of surgeons which includes Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas (Spain), Dr. Eugenio Pompeo and the Awake Thoracic Surgery Research Group in Italy and Dr. Ming-Hui Hung and colleagues (Taiwan). Pompeo’s group (Drs Benedetto Cristino, Augusto Orlandi, Umberto Tarantino, Tiziana Frittelli (General Director of the Policlinico Tor Vergata), Leonardo Palombi, Paola Rogliani, Roberto Massa, Mario Dauri) has been especially prolific in 2015 after several of their works were published in a special issue of Annals of Translational Medicine.
In multiple studies, these researchers have reported successful thoracic surgery outcomes in non-intubated patients, thus eliminating the majority of risks related to general anesthesia as well as uni-lung ventilation via mechanical ventilation and intubation. In several of these studies, the authors were also able to successfully perform these surgeries in fully awake patients (versus consciously sedated), making surgery possible for even the frailest of candidates. These studies included a small number of comparisons between traditional and non-intubated surgeries. While the numbers of patients enrolled have been small, and there are few randomized studies, the results have been encouraging.
Chen et. al
Chen et. al’s 2012 study has been one of the largest studies to date, with 285 cases. In this study, patients underwent lobectomies, wedge resections and segmentectomies with 4.9% requiring conversion with tracheal intubation. Lung resection was undertaken with traditional (3 port) VATS or a needlescopic approach.
The authors report the biggest problem they encountered was increased bronchial tone and airway hyper-reactivity during manipulation of the pulmonary hilum during lobectomies and segmentectomies. This was effectively treated without significant alteration in hemodynamics via intrathoracic vagal blockage which eliminated the cough reflex in these patients.
The authors caution judicious patient selection to prevent emergent conversion (intubation) particularly while surgeons are initially attempting this technique. Chen et al. also believe that non-intubated thoracic surgery is best suited for petite or small-sized female patients because the small tracheal size of these patients predisposes them to a higher rate of complications and potential tracheal injury with traditional surgery and intubation.
Awake anesthesia and lung volume reduction surgery
Pompeo et. al’s review of the literature surrounding of the use of this technique in patients with severe emphysema undergoing nonresectional lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS by awake anesthesia) showed significant treatment advantages for patients undergoing lung volume reduction surgery without intubation or administration of general anesthesia.
With an average mortality of 5% and a morbidity of 59% for traditional lung volume reduction surgery as reported during the National Emphysema Treatment Trial, findings from Tacconi et al.’s 2009 study of 66 LVRS awake patients (matched with 66 patients undergoing traditional surgery) appears promising. The authors report a reduced incidence of prolonged air leaks (18%) versus 40% in the traditional surgical group as well as a decreased length of stay. In this study, 3 patients required conversion to general anesthesia – one patient due to an elevated paCo2 of 83% and the remaining two patients for anxiety attacks.
Rate of intubation/ respiratory failure/ mortality in Tacconi et al.
Mortality in both non-intubated and the traditional surgical group was the same, with one patient from each group. In both cases, the patients had developed massive airleaks following surgery. In the non-intubated group, the patient developed acute lung injury requiring intubation of POD#12 and died POD#38.
In the traditional surgical group, 4 patients were unable to be extubated at the end of the case, with one patient requiring an additional day of mechanical ventilation. Another patient was reintubated on POD#3 for respiratory failure and died on POD#67.
Pompeo et. al, over the course of over eleven years, have also investigated the use of non-intubated (and awake) thoracic surgery for a wide variety of cases including urgent /emergent cases, wedge resections, decortications, talc pleurodesis as well as nonintubated anesthesia combined with single (uniportal) thoracoscopic approaches (aka “microinvasive thoracic surgery”).
Anesthesia for non-intubated thoracic surgery
The role of anesthesiologists in caring for patients undergoing non-intubated or awake thoracic surgery is more challenging than general anesthesia. While thoracic anesthesia already requires specialized skills for initiating, managing and maintaining uni-lung ventilation, the switch to non-intubated patients with either localized anesthesia or conscious sedation adds a new set of complexity to managing these often frail patients. Kiss & Castillo (2015) in their review of the literature, provide an excellent overview of the pros and cons of non-intubated anesthesia as well as guidelines for patient selection and eligibility criteria for use of this technique. Special populations who may benefit from this technique include patients with severe respiratory disease (and a high risk of ventilator dependency with intubation), patients with severe but stable dyspnea, or multiple cardiovascular and respiratory co-morbidities.
Kiss et. al also reviews the contraindications to use of this technique including: phrenic nerve paralysis on the non-operative side, patients at risk for difficult intubation, or patients who are unwilling to undergo awake thoracic surgery. Wang & Ge (2014) expand on these complications to include ASA status 4 or higher, bleeding disorders, decompensated heart failure, extreme obesity, unfavorable airway or spinal anatomy as well as specific respiratory conditions including bronchiestasis, asthma, sleep apnea, clinically significant sputum production and strict contralateral lung isolation.
Wang & Ge also give specific anesthesia dosing guidelines for conscious sedation, local anesthesia and regional blocks in additional to monitoring parameters.
Alterations in oxygenation and ventilation
David et. al. (2015) describe the pathophysiology and alterations in oxygenation and ventilation in surgical pneumothorax including hypercapnia, hypoxia and the associated hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction that occurs along with the development of intrapulmonary shunt as the deflated (and unventilated lung) maintains perfusion. The authors also explain how this effect can be either exacerbated or minimized thru the choice of anesthetic agents, and the administration of supplemental oxygen, which further demonstrates the importance of involving the thoracic anesthesia team in preparation for non-intubated cases.
This “permissive hypercapnia” has been reported in multiple articles as having minimal to no clinical effects and is easily treated with supplemental oxygen by nasal cannula or facemask.
Editor’s note: In advance of this article, Dr. Pompeo, Dr. Gonzalez Rivas and Dr. Min-Hui Hung were contacted for their additional comments and insights on non-intubated thoracic surgery. This and subsequent articles may be augmented, as applicable with their replies.
Should we really abandon pursuit of better patient outcomes, faster mobility, recovery and reduced length of stay in lieu of the security to tell off-color jokes with our patients safely under general anesthesia? Should we abandon all hope in treating patients previously deemed inoperable due to our own fears and hesitations to embrace newer techniques and procedures?
Or as Mineo et al, suggests, should we enlist our colleagues to design and devise several large scale studies at multiple institutions so that we can move to the next level of investigation and answer the question: “Should my patient be awake for this?”
Mineo TC, Tacconi F. (2014). Nonintubatedthoracic surgery: a lead role or just a walk on part?Chin J Cancer Res. 2014 Oct;26(5):507-10. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.1000-9604.2014.08.11. No abstract available. Very enjoyable, almost conversational article with the authors sharing their experiences with non-intubated thoracic surgery while calling for larger clinical research studies on the topic.
Pompeo, E. (2015). Non-intubated thoracic surgery: nostalgic or reasonable? Annals of Translational Medicine, 2015; 3(8): 99. Review of the historical development on non-intubated thoracic surgery and techniques in regional anesthesia for complicated thoracic surgery procedures including esophagectomies in the era predating the development of double lumen intubated and unilung ventilation. A timely reminder that some of the greatest developments in medicine and surgery are ‘rediscoveries’ of our predecessors.
Pompeo E; Awake Thoracic Surgery Research Group (2012). To be awake, or not to be awake, that is the question. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2012 Jul;144(1):281-2; author reply 282. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2012.01.083. No abstract available. Comment on article by Noda et. al.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list of literature available on this topic but a select listing of the most recent and relevant citations (and are available as free full text).
**Long time readers of thoracics.org may have noticed that we no long cover or report on ‘debates’ or discussions as to whether VATS can be used in oncology cases, or whether an adequate lymph node dissection can be performed using VATS. The literature clearly demonstrates that it can – and clinical guidelines reflect this, making the discussion one-sided, tedious, out-dated and repetitious.
Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas discusses intubated and nonintubated uniportal thoracic surgery for complex thoracic procedures
One of the standout presentations on Day One of the Duke Masters of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery was Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas’ presentation on performing uniportal surgery on non-intubated patients. Surprisingly, this presentation was greeted with significant skepticism in the form of comments by fellow presenters.
No trocars, no rib spreading, one incision (with no rigid port placement)
The use of one small 2.5 cm incision with the camera placed above the instruments allows the surgeon to maintain the traditional perspective of open surgery using a minimally invasive approach. “Eyes above hands” Dr. Gonzalez states, reminding surgeons how to keep their visual perspective unaltered. He also discussed some of the findings from an upcoming 2016 paper [in-press] entitled, “Pushing the envelope” which reviews the developments in the areas of single port (uniportal) thoracic surgery in non-intubated patients. This along with his new textbook, have dominated the international thoracic surgery news in recent years.
As part of his discussion, he demonstrated the ease and feasibility of performing a complete and thorough lymph node dissection using the uniportal approach.
Complete paratracheal lymph node dissection in a non-intubated patient
He also presented several complex thoracic cases such as a bronchial sleeve resection for carcinoid tumor in a young, otherwise healthy female, as well as a double sleeve case, and a uniportal bronchovascular reconstruction. He discussed distal tracheal resection using high frequency ventilation jet in a non-intubated patient after resecting the carina – tracheal anastamosis and several chest wall resection cases via the uniportal approach. But the main portion of his talk was devoted to the specifics of non-intubated surgery – from anesthesia protocols to creating a anatomic (surgical) pneumothorax which eliminates problems of lung inflation during surgery. He discussed that while totally awake nonintubated surgery can be performed (with patients awake and talking), that he prefers the use of conscious sedation for patient comfort.
Nonintubated patient – VATS lobectomy
He highlighted the benefits of these approaches – with non-intubated surgical techniques allowing surgeons to operate on frailer, sicker patients who might otherwise be ineligible for surgery. He also talked about the benefits of uniportal surgery versus robotic surgery. Uniportal surgery is faster, and cheaper than costly robotic techniques that require lengthy patient positioning as well as the use of robotic tools that have to be replaced after 10 to 20 cases.
He also reviewed the relative contraindications for nonintubated surgery:
obese patients (BMI greater than 35)
patients with Malpati scores of 3 or 4 (difficult to intubate patients – in case of the need for emergent intubation)
patients with pulmonary hypertension (who will not tolerate permissive hypercapnia)
Masses greater than 6 cm in size
But he also reminded attendees that relative contraindications often change in the face of more experience.
information about the upcoming VATS symposium in Cambridge, UK – with featured speakers Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas and Ian Hunt.
Another conference/ educational announcement for all residents, fellows and interested thoracic surgeons. This course is sponsored by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and is being held in Cambridge, UK at Papworth Hospital this November. There is parallel content for nurses and other thoracic surgery personnel.
Dr. Gonzalez Rivas will be discussing single port surgery in addition to performing a live case on the second day of the symposium.
Mr. Hunt will be discussing how to perform a total lymphadenectomy, as well as lymphadenectomies on more complicated cases.
Additional speakers will be discussing topics including issues in thoracic anesthesia, management of bleeding (in VATS and other minimally invasive surgery), and managing other operative complications.
the latest from Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas and the masters of thoracic surgery.
Dr. Gonzalez Rivas and the Thoracic Surgery Unit in Coruna, Spain are hosting the “International Symposium on Uniportal VATS” this week (February 26th to 28th, 2014).
While the in-person, on-site event is limited to just 100 attendees, the event will be offering real-time live streaming surgery for viewers worldwide.
With registrations from around the world, Dr. Gonzalez Rivas estimates that thousands of pairs of eyes will be watching; from Australia to Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong to Colombia, Brazil to Russia, and the United States.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about single port VATS, this is the time to find out.
For more information:
Livethoracic.com – link to the event and on-line registration. Registration is 500 Euros.
Article at Examiner.com with more details on this event.
a report from Dr. Chin Hao Chen and his colleagues at Mackay Memorial Hospital on 21 cases of diaphragmatic plication via single and dual port thoracoscopy.
Dr. Chen and his colleagues at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taiwan published a new article on their experiences using single and dual port thoracoscopy for diaphragm plication.
The report follows 21 cases from July of 2008 to December of 2011. All 21 cases with left-sided eventrations. 11 were plicated using dual port thoracoscopy in the time period prior to January 2010. In January of 2010, single port thoracoscopy became routine practice at Mackay Memorial. The 10 subsequent cases were all performed by single-port thoracoscopy.
Surgical procedure: The average surgical time between dual port and single port varied by ten minutes with dual port surgery taking longer, averaging 92 minutes. ( see Table 1 of original article). 2.0 silk suture was used for plication of the diaphragm.
In cases using dual port thoracoscopy, the surgeons made the first port at the 7th ICS near the MCL with a second port at the 4th or 5th ICS along the anterior axillary line.
For single port cases, the sole port was 1.5 to 2.0 cm in length and was placed at the 6th ICS along the anterior axillary line.
At the conclusion of the VATS procedure for all patients, a single 24fr or 28fr chest tube was placed, and marcaine was administered as a intercostal block. Patients were extubated prior to leaving the operating room.
The chest tube was removed on the first or second post-operative day. Patients were discharged home following chest tube removal. Post-operative pain scores were minimal, and there was no operative mortality.
The authors discuss surgical technique, and port location for a significant portion of the article. Interested readers are advised to read the original for more details.
Interestingly, while much of the literature on diaphragmatic eventration focuses on early repairs of this condition (neonates and pediatric cases), all of the patients in this series were adults, with an average age of 54 – 55 years of age. Both genders were represented; 15 women and 6 men, with an almost equal distribution among single and dual port cases. (3 men in each group, 7 women in single port, 8 in dual port.)
Unlike traumatic diaphragmatic tear or rupture, diaphragmatic eventration is usually a congenital condition and may be asymptomatic. It is often discovered incidentally after patients undergo radiographic studies for other conditions. However, this condition may predispose patients to other conditions such as respiratory distress or dyspnea by compromising respiratory function on the affected side. In fact, the affected lung may appear tiny, and underdeveloped at the time of repair.
In Dr. Wu and Dr. Chen’s study, patients who underwent dual or single port thoracoscopy reported pain scores of four or less at 24 and 36 hours post-operatively. Post-operative hospitalization was short, with patients being discharged on the first or second post-operative day, with no recurrences or mortality.
Hsin-Hung Wu, Chih-Hao Chen, Ho Chang, Hung-Chang Liu, Tzu-Ti Hung and Shih-Yi Lee (2013). A preliminary report on the feasibility of single-port thoracoscopic surgery for diaphragm plication in the treatment of diaphragm eventration. Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery 2013, 8:224. Provisional pdf of free full text article, with radiographs, color photographs.
Some of the biggest names in thoracic surgery were in attendance, to present their research and surgical techniques to a crowd of over 600 Chinese thoracic surgeons. The lectures (and live surgery) were also broadcast across China.
Invited International Speakers included:
Dr. G. Alexander Patterson, thoracic surgeon/ lung transplant from the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. (USA). Dr. Patterson gave a lecture on clinical experiences and advances in Lung Transplantation. He also lectured on pancoast tumors.
Dr. Claude Deschamps, French Canadian thoracic surgeon and Chair of Surgery at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN (USA). Dr. Deschamps talked about the use of anti-reflux surgery.
Dr. Gaetano Rocco, of the National Cancer Institute in Naples, Italy. Dr. Rocco talked about advances in chest wall reconstruction. He gave another lecture on uniport surgery.
Dr. Alan Sihoe from the University of Hong Kong discussed management of air leaks.
Surgeons from Taiwan and mainland China presented on a variety of topics including tracheal surgery, management of empyema, sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis and surgical treatment of tuberculosis. (The full list of speakers and topics presented is available here*.)
Conference Spotlight: Single port surgery
But the focal point of the forum was single port (uniportal) surgery. Saturday (the 19th) was devoted to lectures and demonstrations of the single port thoracoscopic technique, including live surgical demonstrations performed by Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas. His live surgery presentation was viewed by 500 surgeons at the conference as well as hundreds of other surgeons via a live feed.
Thank you to Dr. Gonzalez Rivas for his submission. We welcome reports, photographs and discussions on recent and upcoming thoracic surgery conferences. If you have a meeting, paper or presentation to share, please contact us at email@example.com
*Information is translated from Mandarin using google software with some obvious translational errors, particularly names of several of the Chinese surgeons.
in the operating room with Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas for single port thoracoscopic (uniportal) surgery.
Hilar mass resection using single port thoracoscopy with Dr. Diego Gonzalez – Rivas
K. Eckland & Andres M. Neira, MD
Instituto Nacional de Cancerlogia
Surgeon(s): Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas and Dr. Ricardo Buitrago
59-year-old female with past medical history significant for recurrent mediastinal mass previously resectioned via right VATS. Additional past medical history included prior right-sided nephrectomy.
CBC: WBC 7230 Neu 73% Hgb:14.1 Hct 37 platelets 365000
Pt 12.1 / INR1.1 PTT: 28.3
Pre-operative CT scan: chest
Procedure: Single port thoracoscopy with resection of mediastinal mass and lymph node sampling
After review of relevant patient history including radiographs, patient was positioned for a right-sided procedure. After being prepped, and draped, surgery procedure in sterile fashion. A linear incision was made in the anterior chest – mid clavicular line at approximately the fifth intercostal space. A 10mm port was briefly inserted and the chest cavity inspected. The port was then removed, and the incision was expanded by an additional centimeter to allow for the passage of multiple instruments; including camera, grasper and suction catheter.
The chest cavity, pleura and lung were inspected. The medial mediastinal mass was then identified.
As previously indicated on pre-operative CT scan, the mass was located adjacent and adherent to the vessels of the hilum. This area was carefully dissected free, in a painstaking fashion. After freeing the mediastinal mass from the hilum, the remaining surfaces of the mass were resected. The mass was fixed to the artery pulmonary and infiltrating it) . The mass was removed en-bloc. Care was then taken to identify, and sample the adjacent lymph nodes which were located at stations (4, 7 and 10).
Following removal of the tumor and lymph nodes, the area was re-inspected, and the lung was re-inflated. A 28 french chest tube was inserted in the original incision, with suturing of the fascia, subcutaneous and skin layers.
Hemostasis was maintained during the procedure with minimal blood loss.
Patient was hemodynamically stable throughout the case, and maintained appropriate oxygen saturations. Following surgery, the patient was awakened, extubated and transferred to the surgical intensive care unit.
Post-operative: Post-operative chest x-ray confirmed appropriate chest tube placement and no significant bleeding or pneumothorax.
Patient did well post-operatively. Chest tube was discontinued on POD#2 and discharged home.
Discussion: Since the initial published reports of single-port thoracoscopy, this procedure has been applied to an increasing range of cases. Dr. Gonzalez and his team have published reports demonstrating the safety and utility of the single-port technique for multiple procedures including lobectomies, sleeve resections, segmentectomies, pneumonectomies and mediastinal mass resections. Dr. Hanao Chen (Taiwan) has reported several successful esophagectomies using this technical, as well as bilateral pleural drainage using a unilateral single-port approach.
Contrary to popular perception, the use of a single-port versus traditional VATS procedures (three or more) is actually associated with better visibility and accessibility for surgeons. Surgeons using this technical have also reported better ergonomics with less operating fatigue related to awkward body positioning while operating.
The learn curve for this surgical approach is less than anticipated due to the reasons cited above, and has been cited at 5 to 20 cases by Dr. Gonzalez, the creator of this approach.
The main limitations for surgeons using this technique is often related to anticipated (but potentially unrealized) fears regarding the need for urgent conversion to open thoracotomy. In reality, many of the complications that may lead to urgent conversion, such as major bleeding, are manageable thoracoscopically once surgeons are experienced and comfortable with this approach.
Dr. Gonzalez and his colleagues have reported a conversion rate of less than 1% in their practice. Subsequent reports by Dr. Gonzalez and his colleagues have documented these findings.
Other barriers to adoption of this technique are surgeon-based, and may be related to the individual surgeon’s willingness or reluctance to adopt new techniques and technology. Many of these surgeons would be surprised by how this technique mimics open surgery.
The successful adoption of this technique by numerous thoracic surgery fellows shows the feasibility and ease of learning single-port thoracoscopy by surgeons interested in adopting and advancing their surgical proficiency in minimally invasive surgery.
The benefits for utilizing this technique include decreased length of stay, decreased patient discomfort and greater patient satisfaction.
References/ Additional Readings
Bertolaccini, L., Rocco, G., Viti, A. & Terzi, A. (2013). Surgical technique: Geometrical characteristics of uniportal VATS. J. Thorac Dis. 2013, Apr 07. Article from thoracic surgeons at the National Cancer Institute in Naples, Italy explains how the geometric advantages of uniportal VATS improves visibility and spatial perception over traditional VATS, and mimics open surgery.
Calvin, S. H. Ng (2013). Uniportal VATS in Asia. J Thorac Dis 2013 Jun 20. Article discussing the spread of uniportal techniques in Taiwan, China and other parts of Asia.
Chen, Chin-Hao, Lin, Wei-Sha, Chang, Ho, Lee, Shih-Yi, Tzu-Ti, Hung & Tai, Chih-Yin (2013). Treatment of bilateral empyema thoracis using unilateral single-port thoracoscopic approach. Ann Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2013.
Gonzalez Rivas, D., Fieira, E., Delgado, M., Mendez, L., Fernandez, R. & De la Torre, M. (2013). Surgical technique: Uniportal video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy. J. Thorac Dis. 2013 July 4.
Gonzalez Rivas, D., Delgado, M., Fieira, E., Mendez, L. Fernandez, R. & De la Torre, M. (2013). Surgical technique: Uniportal video-assisted thoracoscopic pneumonectomy. J. Thorac Dis. 2013 July 4.
Rocco, G. (2013). VATS and uniportal VATS: a glimpse into the future. J. Thorac Dis. 2013 July 04. After coming across several articles by Dr. Gaetano Rocco, and actively pursuing several other publications by this Italian thoracic surgeon, I have become increasingly convinced that Gaetano Rocco, along with Dr. Gonzalez Rivas is one of the world’s leading innovators in thoracic surgery. Hopefully, cirugia de torax will be able to catch up to Dr. Rocco at some point for an in-depth discussion.
5 / Video-assisted thoracic surgery lobectomy: 3-year initial experience with 200 cases. Gonzalez D, De la Torre M, Paradela M, Fernandez R, Delgado M, Garcia J,Fieira E, Mendez L. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2011 40(1):e21-8.
6 / Single-port Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Anatomical Resection: Initial Experience. Diego Gonzalez , Ricardo Fernandez, Mercedes De La Torre, Maria Delgado, Marina Paradela, Lucia Mendez. Innovations.Vol 6.Number 3. May/jun 2011. Page 165.
the 2013 S.W.A.T conference, presented by Johnson & Johnson. Featured presenters Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas and Dr. Paula Ugalde discuss single port thoracoscopy and topics in minimally invasive surgery
Very pleased that despite the initial difficulties, we are able to provide information regarding the recent conference.
Talking about Single-port surgery in Bogotá, Colombia – 2013 S.W.A.T. Summit
Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas and Dr. Paula Ugalde were the headliners at the recent Johnson and Johnson thoracic surgery summit on minimally invasive surgery. Both surgeons gave multiple presentations on several topics. They were joined at the lectern by several local Colombian surgeons including Dr. Stella Martinez Jaramillo (Bogotá), Dr. Luis Fernando Rueda (Barranquilla), Dr. Jose Maineri (Venezuela) Dr. Mario Lopez (Bogotá) and Dr. Pardo (Cartagena).
Target audience missing from conference
The audience was made up of thirty Latin American surgeons from Colombia, Costa Rica and Venezuela. This surgeons were hand-picked for this invitation-only event. Unfortunately, while Johnson and Johnson organized and presented a lovely event; their apparent lack of knowledge about the local (Colombian) thoracic surgery community resulted in the exclusion of several key surgeons including Dr. Mauricio Velasquez, one of Colombia’s earliest adopters of single-port thoracoscopy. Also excluded were the junior members of the community, including Dr. Castano, Dr. Carlos Carvajal, and current thoracic surgery fellows. It was an otherwise outstandingand informative event.
As discussed in multiple publications, previous posts as well as during the conference itself, it is these younger members who are more likely to adopt newer surgical techniques versus older, more experienced surgeons. More seasoned surgeons may be hesitant to change their practices since they are more comfortable and accustomed to open surgical procedures.
Despite their absence, it was an engaging and interesting conference which engendered lively discussion among the surgeons present.
Of course, the highlight of the conference actually occurred the day before, when Dr. Gonzalez- Rivas demonstrated his technique during two separate cases at the National Cancer Institute in Bogotá, Colombia. (Case report).
Dr. Diego Gonzalez – Rivas is a world-renown thoracic surgeon jointly credited (along with Dr. Gaetano Rocco) with the development of single-port thoracoscopic (uni-port) surgery. He and his colleagues at the Minimally Invasive Surgery Unit in La Coruna, Spain give classes and lectures on this technique internationally. Recent publications include three papers in July alone detailing the application of this surgical approach, as well as several YouTube videos demonstrating use of this technique for a wide variety of cases.
Dr. Paula Ugalde, a Chilean-borne thoracic surgeon (from Brazil) who gave several presentations on minimally-invasive surgery topics. She is currently affiliated with a facility in Quebec, Canada.
Refuting the folklore
Part of the conference focused on refuting the ‘folklore’ of minimally-invasive procedures. Some of these falsehoods have plagued minimally-invasive surgery since the beginning of VATS (in 1991), such as the belief that VATS should not be applied in oncology cases. The presenters also discussed how uniportal VATS actually provides improved visibility and spatial perception over traditional VATS (Bertolaccini et al. 2013).
However, Gonzalez-Rivas, Ugalde and the other surgeons in attendance presented a wealth of data, and publications to demonstrate:
– VATS is safe and feasible for surgical resection in patients with cancer. (Like all surgeries, oncological principles like obtaining clear margins, and performing a thorough lymph node dissection need to be maintained).
– Thorough and complete lymph node dissection is possible using minimally invasive techniques like single-port surgery. Multiple studies have demonstrated that on average, surgeons using this technique obtain more nodes than surgeons using more traditional methods.
– Large surgeries like pneumonectomies and sleeve resections are reasonable and feasible to perform with single-port thoracoscopy. Using these techniques may reduce morbidity, pain and length of stay in these patients.
– Rates of conversion to open surgery are very low (rare occurrence). In single-port surgery, “conversion” usually means adding another port – not making a larger incision.
– Learning curve fallacies: the learning curve varies with each individual surgeon – but in general, surgeons proficient in traditional VATS and younger surgeons (the “X box generation”) will readily adapt to single-port surgery.
– Bleeding, even significant bleeding can be managed using single-port thoracoscopy. Dr. Gonzalez Rivas gave a separate presentation using several operative videos to demonstrate methods of controlling bleeding during single-port surgery – since this is a common concern among surgeons hesitant to apply these advanced surgical techniques.
Additional References / Readings about Single-Port Thoracoscopy
Scanlon single-port thoracoscopy kits – informational brochure about specially designed instruments endorsed by Dr. Gonzalez Rivas.
Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas – YouTube channel : Dr. Gonzalez Rivas maintains an active YouTube channel with multiple videos demonstrating his surgical technique during a variety of cases. Below is a full-length video demonstrating the uniportal technique.
Additional posts at Cirugia de Torax about Dr. Diego Gonzalez- Rivas
Upcoming conference in Florida – information about registering for September conference for hands-on course in single-port thoracoscopic surgery with Dr. Gonzalez-Rivas
Youtube video for web conference on Single-port thoracoscopic surgery
Bertolaccini, L., Rocco, G., Viti, A. & Terzi, A. (2013). Surgical technique: Geometrical characteristics of uniportal VATS. J. Thorac Dis. 2013, Apr 07. Article from thoracic surgeons at the National Cancer Institute in Naples, Italy explains how the geometric advantages of uniportal VATS improves visibility and spatial perception over traditional VATS, and mimics open surgery.
Calvin, S. H. Ng (2013). Uniportal VATS in Asia.J Thorac Dis 2013 Jun 20. Article discussing the spread of uniportal techniques in Taiwan, China and other parts of Asia.
Rocco, G. (2013). VATS and uniportal VATS: a glimpse into the future.J. Thorac Dis. 2013 July 04. After coming across several articles by Dr. Gaetano Rocco, and actively pursuing several other publications by this Italian thoracic surgeon, I have become increasingly convinced that Gaetano Rocco, along with Dr. Gonzalez Rivas is one of the world’s leading innovators in thoracic surgery. Hopefully, cirugia de torax will be able to catch up to Dr. Rocco at some point for an in-depth discussion.
While I advance criticism of this event – it was a fantastic conference. My only reservations were to the exclusivity of the event. While this was certainly related to the costs of providing facilities and services for this event – hopefully, the next J & J thoracic event will be open to more interested individuals including young surgeons and nurses.
Reviewing “Ten years experience on 644 patients undergoing single-port (uniportal) video-assisted” by Gaetano Rocco et al. at the National Cancer Institute in Naples, Italy
In this month’s issue of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Dr. Gaetano Rocco and his colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, Pascale Foundation in Naples, Italy reported their findings on ten year’s worth of single-port surgery in their institution.
Who: 644 patients; (334 males, 310 females)
What: Outcomes and experiences in single port thoracic surgery over a ten-year period. All procedures performed by a single surgeon at this institution, and single-port VATS accounted for 27.7% of all surgeries performed during this time period.
When: data collected on thoracic surgery patients from January 2000 – December 2010.
Pre-operative CT scan was used for incision placement planning. Incision was up to 2.5 cm (1 inch) in length depending on indications for surgery.
Conversion rate to 2 or 3 port VATS: 2.2% (14 patients)
Conversion to mini-thoracotomy: 1.5% (10 patients)
Patients underwent conversion due to incomplete lung collapse (22 patients) and bleeding (2 patients).
There were no re-operations or “take backs”. The four patients with malignant effusions who died within the 30 day post-op period were re-admitted to the ICU.
Otherwise, all patients were admitted to either the floor or the step-down unit following surgery.
Pain management: post-operative pain was managed with a non-narcotic regimen consisting of a 24 hour IV infusion pump of ketorolac (20mg) and tramadol (100mg*). After the first 24 hours, patients were managed with oral analgesics such as paracetamol (acetaminophen).
Limitations: in this study, uni-port VATS was not used for major resections, as seen in the work of Dr. Diego Gonzalez and others. This may be due to the fact that uni-port VATS was an emerging technique at the initiation of this study.
Strengths: This is one of the largest studies examining the use of single-port thoracic surgery – and showed low morbidity and mortality. (Arguably, the 30 day mortality in this study was related to the patients’ underlying cancers, rather than the surgical procedure itself.)
*Intravenous tramadol is not available in the United States.
For thoracic surgeons interested in becoming more familiar with uniport surgery, this is your chance to learn from the pioneers of the technique.
Several new dates for Uni-port thoracoscopy with Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas. These events span across the Americas and Europe, so if you are interested in uni-port thoracoscopic surgery, then there is something nearby.
The first date is coming up soon – in August 2013, in Bogotá, Colombia.
Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas in Bogotá, Colombia
I am excited about this one, and hope to be able to cover the event for readers of CdeT. While I am currently in Medellin, I became familiar with, (and have a great deal of respect for) many of Bogotá’s finest thoracic surgeons in the past so it’s a great opportunity not just to hear more about Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas and uni-port thoracoscopy but to check in local surgeons and hear about some of their more interesting cases.
Dr. Gonzalez will be joined by Dr. Paula Ugalde, a well-known thoracic surgeon from Brazil (now practicing in Quebec, Canada).
As soon as I get some more details on the Bogotá event – I’ll post them here..
Split, Crotia – September 12th – 15th – 23rd Congress of the World Society of Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons.
This conference is being jointly sponsered by the Society of Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons of South Africa (SCTSSA). Dr. Diego Gonzalez will be talking about “Uni-port VATS major pulmonary resections in advanced lung cancer” in an afternoon session on September 13, 2013. (Obviously they don’t know much about him – since it’s only a 20 minute session – but as a CTS conference, only about 10% is thoracic topics (he is one of just a handful of thoracic speakers.)
Then in mid -September 2013, he will part of a roster of the greats of thoracic surgery (Dr. Robert Cefolio, Dr. James Luketich and Dr. Thomas D’Amico) at the Duke Center for Surgical Innovation for a course entitled, “Masters of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery”.
The second event, is a meeting/ conference/ training course in Dr. Gonzalez’s home hospital in Coruna, Spain. The event, “Live Thoracic” will feature ‘live-surgery’ demonstrations and will be streamed for real-time viewing from around the world.
In a side note – I want to thank the nearly 6,000 students, interns, nurses, residents and thoracic surgeons who have downloaded one of my thoracic surgery apps for Android devices.
The article, entitled, “Treatment of bilateral empyema thoracis using unilateral single port approach,” details one of his recent cases and discusses the use of unilateral single port surgery for the treatment of bilateral conditions. (For the uninitiated – that’s one small incision to treat an infection on both sides of the chest.)
Case report: bilateral empyema
In this case report, a 28 year old male presented with dyspnea, sore throat, malaise, fever and weakness. Patient was admitted with a diagnosis of sepsis and started on antibiotics.
Labs showed an elevated WBC count (19,300), C-reactive protein and D-dimer. Subsequent imaging confirmed the presence of pulmonary emboli, and with serial imaging showing worsening bilateral pleural effusions. Thoracic surgery was consulted for definitive treatment.
Dr. Chen discusses this technique, as well as considerations for using this novel approach.
First look at innovative approach
Other that his recent discussions here at Cirugia de Torax, this is the first time that surgery utilizing this technique has been discussed in a medical forum. This represents a ground-breaking advance in thoracoscopic surgery, single port surgery and thoracic surgery as a whole.
Update: Article published June 18, 2013 in the Annals of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. A pdf of the full article is available.
Case report with video of SITS (single incision thoracoscopic surgery) repair of diaphragm defect in a case of hepatic hydrothorax resulting from liver cirrhosis with Dr. Chih-Hao Chen, MAckay Memorial Hospital, Taiwan
Case Report: Single incision thoracoscopic repair of diaphragmatic defect in a patient with hepatic hydrothorax
Dr. Chih-Hao Chen, Thoracic Surgeon MAckay Memorial Hospital, Taiwan
Patient is an elderly woman who was admitted after a motor-vehicle accident with a traumatic fracture of the humerus and femoral neck. She was brought to our ED immediately and was intubated due to acute respiratory failure.
Subsequent Chest radiograph showed diffuse opacity in right hemithorax and concomitant fracture in left side humerus and femoral neck. Attempt for tapping of the pleural effusion showed clear in nature.
According to previous medical records, she had no relevant history. She was admitted to ICU for further evaluation and management.
Fluid analysis in emergency department showed transudate.
LFTS: Total Bilirubin 2.7 mg/dL AST 116 ALT 68 Albumin 2.3 g/dL Direct Bilirubin H 1.1 mg/dL
Chem panel: BUN 83 mg/dL Creatinine 1.6 mg/dL K 3.2 mEq/LNa 144 mEq/L
Chest radiograph on admission showed a massive right-sided pleural effusion.
For symptomatic control, the physician performed intermittent thoracentesis. Because the traumatic site is left aspect of the trunk ( fracture in left side humerus and left side femoral neck ) and right side effusion was very clear.
Hepatic hydrothorax was suspected. Later peritoneal scan confirmed the diagnosis.
The scan showed left side pleural space was sparring from radioisotope. Direct communication between right side pleural cavity and the abdomen. The diagnosis is confirmed with such findings.
CT scans are not diagnostic for this condition, and were not indicated for her other injuries. Therefore, we did not arrange CT scan of the chest / abdomen.
Abdominal ultrasound showed moderate to massive ascites. Along with hepatic encephalopathy, moderate to massive ascites, prolonged PT/PTT, low albumin, higher bilirubin, the extent of cirrhosis is Child’s class C.
Operative Procedure: Single incision thoracoscopic repair of a diaphragmatic defect. Theoretically, with SITS, the wound can be very tiny. However, in our experience (fifteen total cases to date), diaphragm surgery through single port may be a bit difficult because we did not know where the defect is. We have to inspect very carefully and to search for the defect where the fluid came out. In this case, we made one small wound around 2 cm in length at the 6th ICS along the anterior axillary line.
Repair of the diaphragmatic defect was performed using silk suture similar to that used to repair inguinal hernias. Intra-operatively, the defect was 2 -3 mm in diameter.
At the conclusion of the procedure, using the original incision, we placed one Fr.24 chest tube to monitor the drainage and may consider chemical pleurodesis if the drainage persists. The operative procedure was accomplished within 30 minutes.
Post-operative Chest Radiograph
Post-operative condition of the chest film showed near complete resolution of the effusion and lung re-expansion was complete.
Pathology/ Fluid Cytology: fluid analysis and peritoneal scan showed communication between peritoneal space and right side pleural space confirming pre-operative diagnosis. No tissue specimens were taken during this procedure.
Hepatic hydrothorax is the development of a pleural effusion in a patient with liver disease in the absence of cardiopulmonary pathology, making it a diagnosis of exclusion in many cases. It can occur in patients with and without ascites and may be the first presenting symptom in patients with undiagnosed liver disease. Similar to catamenial pneumothorax; hepatic hydrothorax is predominantly a right-sided disease. This is due to an anatomic gutter or diaphragmatic defect that occurs, and allows the passage of material or fluid from the abdominal cavity into the pleural space. This can be seen and identified on peritoneal studies(Peritoneal scan) like the study showed in our case study above. (Similar pathologies can occur in related conditions such as renal failure related hydrothorax due to this defect). Such defect is usually identified in the tendon part of the diaphragm. Peritoneal scan can confirm there is communication between the abdominal cavity and the pleural space. However, the definite location, size and number of defects can not been identified by the scan alone. Thoracoscopic inspection is the only method to search for such defect(s).
Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) has been shown to be a safe and effective method of treating this condition, by allowing surgeons to correct the defect, and thus prevent recurrence (Saito et al. 2012). The cure rate varied greatly in the literature. The key is whether the defect can be repaired. For one to two obvious defects, direct suture repair usually cured the disease. (the cure rate more than 80%) However, for some undetectable defects or defects with fenestration type, the cure rate is very low, ( around 30-50% ). Alternative strategies have to be considered in such condition, such as tissue glue, abrasion pleurodesis, mesh interposition and using sclerosing agents(OK432, bleomycin, Minocin, talc, etc). This is in distinct contrast to the numerous non-surgical drainage procedures such as thoracentesis, which removes accumulated fluid but does not correct the underlying pathology. However, the hallmark of this condition, liver failure predisposes patients to complications such as bleeding, infection and poor wound healing. These risks are one of the primary reasons treatment was often limited to drainage procedures prior to the popularization of lower risk VATS procedures. In the past, patients with Child’s class C liver cirrhosis are basically not proper surgical candidates because of extremely high mortality/morbidity rate. In recent experience of single-port approach, some patients with Child B and C are still safe with minimal postoperative complications. The advance of these minimally invasive technologies such as uni-port thoracoscopy permits fewer and more limited incisions which is believed to further reduce these risks while providing patients with definitive treatment options. More case studies such as this one, along with larger studies are needed to demonstrate the benefits of this technique for hepatic hydrothorax.
Interested in learning more about single port thoracoscopy, or talking to the inventors of this technique? This March – head to the 1st Asian single port surgery conference in Hong Kong.
It doesn’t look like Cirugia de Torax will be in attendance for this conference, but it’s another opportunity for practicing thoracic surgeons and thoracic surgery fellows to learn more about single port thoracoscopic surgery.
a day in the operating room with one of Colombia’s New Masters of Thoracic Surgery
Dr. Mauricio Velasquez is probably one of the most famous thoracic surgeons that you’ve never heard of. His thoracic surgery program at the internationally ranked Fundacion Valle del Lili in Cali, Colombia is one of just a handful of programs in the world to offer single port thoracic surgery. Dr. Velasquez has also single-handedly created a surgical registry for thoracic surgeons all over Colombia and recently gave a presentation on the registry at a national conference. This registry allows surgeons to track their surgical data and outcomes, in order to create specifically targeted programs for continued innovation and improvement in surgery (similar to the STS database for American surgeons).
Dr. Velasquez is also part of a team at Fundacion Valle del Lili which aims to add lung transplant to the repertoire of services available to the citizens of Cali and surrounding communities.
He is friendly, and enthusiastic about his work but humble and apparently unaware of his growing reputation as one of Colombia’s finest surgeons.
Education and training
After completing medical school at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellin in 1997, he completed his general surgery residency at the Universidad del Valle in 2006, followed by his thoracic surgery fellowship at El Bosque in Bogotá.
The Colombia native has also trained with thoracic surgery greats such as Dr. Thomas D’Amico at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and single port surgery pioneer, Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas in Coruna, Spain. He is also planning to receive additional training in lung transplantation at the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio this summer.
Single port surgery
Presently, Dr. Velasquez is just one of a very small handful of surgeons performing single port surgery. This surgery is an adaptation of a type of minimally invasive surgery called video-assisted thoracoscopy. This technique allows Dr. Velasquez to perform complex thoracic surgery techniques such as lobectomies and lung resections for lung cancer through a small 2 – 3 cm incision. Previously, surgeons performed these operations using either three small incisions or one large (10 to 20cm) incision called a thoracotomy.
By using a tiny single incision, much of the trauma, pain and lengthy hospitalization of a major lung surgery are avoided. Patients are able to recovery and return to their lives much sooner. The small incision size, and lack of rib spreading means less pain, less dependence on narcotics and a reduced incidence of post-operative pneumonia and other complications caused by prolonged immobilization and poor inspiratory effort.
However, this procedure is not just limited to the treatment of lung cancer, but can also be used to treat lung infections such as empyema, and large mediastinal masses or tumors like thymomas and thyroid cancers.
Part of his success in due in no small part to Dr. Velasquez’s surgical skill, another important asset to his surgical practice is his wife, Dr. Indira Cujiño, an anesthesiologist specializing in thoracic anesthesia. She trained for an additional year in Spain, in order to be able to provide specialized anesthesia for her husband’s patients, including in special circumstances, conscious sedation. This allows her husband to operate on critically ill patients who cannot tolerate general anesthesia. While Dr. Cujiño does not perform anesthesia for all of Dr. Velasquez’s cases, she is always available for the more complex cases or more critically ill patients.
In the operating room with Dr. Velasquez
I spent the day in the operating room with Dr. Velasquez for several cases and was immediate struck by the ease and adeptness of the single port approach. (While I’ve written quite a bit about the literature and surgeons using this technique, prior to this, I’ve had only limited exposure to the technique intra-operatively.) Visibility and maneuverability of surgical instruments was vastly superior to multi-port approaches. The technique also had the advantage that it added no time, or complexity to the procedure (unlike robotic surgery).
Cases proceeded rapidly; with no complications.
Note to readers – some of the content, and information obtained during interviews, conversations etc. with Dr. Velasquez may be used on additional websites aimed at Colombia-based readers.
an Interview with Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas – and coverage of ‘Videotoracoscopia y cirugia robotica en torax: Avances y perspectivas’ in Santiago, Chile
I was a little intimidated to actually interview Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas after reading his articles and pestering him with emails for the last few years. But he was just as nice and patient with my questions as he’s always been.
Since publishing the last few articles on his single port technique, Dr. Gonzalez has been in high demand from thoracic surgeons wanting to learn more, and to train in single port techniques. In addition to traveling the world to teach – he continues to offer training at the Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery Unit at the Complexo Hospitalario Universitario de A Coruna, in Coruna, Spain.
Dr. Gonzalez reports that single port thoracoscopy doesn’t just provide patients with the least invasive surgery possible, but that single port thoracoscopy is superior to traditional VATS in the vast majority of cases. Single port thoracoscopy is defined by the creation of one 2cm to 4cm incision – with no rib spreading and utilization of video-assisted thoracoscopy.
He states that using a single port approach gives much better visibility than traditional VATS. This visibility is equal to that of open surgery – versus the 3 or 4 port approach, which is constrained by the 30 degree movement / rotation of the thoracoscope. This visibility concept; called ‘Forward Motion,’ along with the ease of using instrumentation through the same port makes single port surgery amendable to most thoracic surgery procedures.
Learning curve? What learning curve?
He reports that members of the “Playstation Generation” as he terms the newest young surgeons, adapt more readily to the use of both traditional and single port thoracoscopy. In fact, he reports that the residents (in his program) are able to learn and use this approach with minimal assistance.
With the exception of lung transplantation (requiring the traditional clamshell incision), Dr. Gonzalez reports that he is able to successfully perform a wide range of surgeries from wedge resections and lobectomies to more complicated procedures such as pneumonectomies and sleeve resections.
In today’s lecture he debunks some of the myths regarding the ‘classic contraindications’ to video-assisted thoracoscopy (VATS) such as broncheoplasty, the presence of dense adhesions or the need for complete lymph node dissection. While he reports that dense adhesions may make the procedure more painstaking and difficult – it is still possible.
In cases of lymph node dissection – he reports that lymphadenectomy is actually superior by single port and other VATS methods, with the average surgeon actually harvesting more nodes, more easily.
While he initially believed that right upper lobe resections would be impossible with this method – his recent experiences (included in an upcoming paper on 102 cases) show that any anatomic complexities are readily overcome by an experienced VATS surgeon. Not only that, but he has been able to successfully remove very large (8cm or greater) lung tumors using this method – by slightly enlarging the port at the time of specimen removal. He has also successfully removed Pancoast tumors and performed chest wall resections with this procedure, as well as single port thoracoscopy after previous VATS or previous thoracotomy including completion pnuemonectomies and completion sleeve lobectomies.
One of the biggest obstacles for surgeons implementing the single port method is the dreaded complication of catastrophic bleeding. This often causes inexperienced single port surgeons to hasten to convert to open surgery without attempting to control the bleeding. Dr. Gonzalez presented several cases today to demonstrate the difference between controlled bleeding that can be managed with the speedy application of surgical staples, clips or sutures versus heavy uncontrolled bleeding, which requires quick recognition and prompt conversion to open thoracotomy.
He reports that in the over 500 cases he has performed by VATS (3 port, dual port and single port), conversion to open thoracotomy remains a very rare occurence. (He presented data on his outcomes today.)
In his own practice, he reports that prior to 2007 the majority of cases were by traditional thoracotomy. He began using 3 port VATS more heavily in 2007 – 2009. After training with Dr. D’Amico at Duke University in Durham, NC – he moved to dual port thoracoscopy in 2009. Since 2010, his practice is almost exclusively single port thoracoscopy.
The future of single port thoracoscopy
Dr. Gonzalez believes the future of single port thoracoscopy will be a hybridization of current robotic thoracic surgery (which now uses three and four port techniques) to using less invasive, smaller robotic arms that will allow surgeons to enjoy the micro-precision of robotic technology through a single port.
Not just a ‘single port surgeon’
While he is famous internationally for his innovations in the field of minimally invasive surgery, he is also a transplant surgeon. In fact, along with his partners, he performed an average of 35 – 40 lung transplants a year.* This makes the transplant program in Coruna the second largest in Spain, despite the relatively small size of Coruna compared to other cities such as Barcelona or Madrid.
For patients who are interested in Dr. Gonzalez-Rivas and his program, please contact him at Info@videocirugiatoracica.com
I published an article based on this interview over at Examiner.com
5 / Video-assisted thoracic surgery lobectomy: 3-year initial experience with 200 cases. Gonzalez D, De la Torre M, Paradela M, Fernandez R, Delgado M, Garcia J,Fieira E, Mendez L. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2011 40(1):e21-8.
6 / Single-port Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Anatomical Resection: Initial Experience. Diego Gonzalez , Ricardo Fernandez, Mercedes De La Torre, Maria Delgado, Marina Paradela, Lucia Mendez. Innovations.Vol 6.Number 3. May/jun 2011. Page 165.
Books/ Book Chapters
1 / Thoracoscopic lobectomy through a single incision. Diego Gonzalez-Rivas, Ricardo Fernandez, Mercedes de la Torre, and Antonio E. Martin-Ucar. Multimedia Manual of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery. MMCTS (2012) Vol. 2012 doi:10.1093/mmcts/mms007. Includes multiple videos demonstrating single port techniques.
2 / Tumores del diafragma. M. de la Torre Bravos, D. González Rivas, R. Fernández Prado, JM Borro Maté. Tratado de Cirugía Torácica. Editores L. Fernandez Fau, J. Freixinet Gilart. SEPAR Editores médicos SA. Madrid 2010. Vol 2, Sec VIII, Capitulo 87: 1269-78.
3 / Trasplante Pulmonar. C. Damas, M. De la Torre, W. Hespanhol, J.M. Borro. Atlas de Pneumología. Editores A. Segorbe Luís y R. Sotto-Mayor 2010. Vol 2, Capítulo 54 651-8.
4 / Doble utilidad hemostática y sellante de fuga aérea de tachosil en un caso de cirugía compleja por bronquiectasias. M. De la Torre, J.M. Borro, D. González, R. Fernández, M. Delgado, M. Paradela. Anuario 2009. Casos clínicos en cirugía. Accesit en la 3ª edición de los Premios Nycomed 2008.
5 / Cirugía Torácica videoasistida avanzada. D. González Rivas. Videomed 2008. Certamen internacional de cine médico y científico.
6 / Traumatismo Torácico. M. de la Torre, M. Córdoba. En « Manual de Urgencias en Neumología». Editado por Luis M Domínguez Juncal, 1999 165-78.
7 / Neumotórax. M. Córdoba, M. de la Torre. En « Manual de Urgencias en Neumología». Editado por Luis M Domínguez Juncal, 1999 139-56.
8 / Cirugía del enfisema. P. Gámez, J.J. Rivas, M . de la Torre. En « Neumología Práctica al Día». Boehringer Ingelheim 1998 77-102.
9 / Neumotórax. J.J. Rivas, J. Torres, M. de la Torre, E. Toubes. En « Manual de Neumología y Cirugía Torácica». Editores Médicos S.A. 1998 1721-37.
Dr. Chen discusses single port thoracoscopy – and specimen size.
Single port thoracoscopy for wedge resection – does size matter? Dr. Chih-Hao Chen, Thoracic Surgeon, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Taiwan Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org
Case presentation and discussion
A 77 y/o woman was found to have a neoplasm in RML during routine health exam. (Full case presentation here.)
The incision was 2.5 cm. The specimen was removed successfully; patient experienced no complications and was discharged from the hospital without incident. However, when discussing this case with surgeon colleagues a specific question arose.
Does size matter? How big is too big to remove through a port incision?
An important issue is the theoretically smallest (and effective) incision size. The issue is very challenging for most surgeons. In the past, other surgeons have questioned me :
“The specimen to be removed is more than 12-15 cm. How can you remove the specimen from a 3.5 cm incision?”
BUT, the fact is “the smallest size depends mostly on the solid part of the neoplasm “.
The lung is soft in nature. In my experience, a 3.5 cm port is usually enough for any lobe. The only problem is that if the solid part is huge, pull-out of the specimen may be difficult.
Therefore, the solid part size is probably the smallest incision size we have to make, usually in the last step when dissection completed , if needed.
Using endo-bags to avoid larger incisions
There is an exception. I have never do this but I think it may be possible. We usually avoid opening the tumor (or cutting tumor tissue into half ) within the pleural space in order to prevent metastasis from spillage of cancerous tissue.
What if we can protect the tumor from metastasis while we cut it into smaller pieces? For example, into much smaller portions that will easily pass through the small port incisions?
My idea is to use double-layer or even triple layers of endo-bag to contain the specimen. If it is huge, with perfect protection, we cut it into smaller parts within the bag. Then the huge specimen can be removed through a very tiny incision. This is possible.
We still have to avoid “fragmentations” since this might interfere or confuse the pathologist for accurate cancer staging. Therefore, in theory, we can cut it into smaller parts but not into fragments. However this idea is worthy of consideration, and I welcome debate from my fellow surgeons and medical colleagues.
Dr. Chih-Hao Chen at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taiwan talks about his experiences with single port/ single incision thoracic surgery (SITS) as well as the “Chen esophagectomy”; a new single port approach to esophagectomies.
Single-port thoracoscopic surgery (SITS) as a first-line approach
With the advent of minimally invasive surgical techniques such as VATS, surgeons now have the ability to perform multiple surgical procedures such as lobectomy, decortication and even esophagectomy through 1 – 2 cm port incisions instead of traditional open surgery. However, as mentioned during an interview with Dr. Mark Dylewski, few American* surgeons have fully embraced this technology. Even fewer surgeons internationally have embraced the emerging single port techniques that have developed from VATS. One of these surgeons is Dr. Chih-Hao Chen at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taiwan. We previously discussed one of his studies here at Cirugia de Torax, so it was with great delight when we had an opportunity to discuss his continuing research and development in this area in a series of emails.
Dr. Chen is currently in the forefront of the movement to make SITS a first-line approach for majority of thoracic surgery procedures that can currently be approached with traditional VATS. The biggest risk to this “less is more” approach to port placement is needing to add additional ports during the case (thus converting to traditional VATS 3-4 port approach).
As Dr. Chen explains, “In contrast to creating 3 small wounds, I always try single-port first. If it is technically unavoidable, I would make the second port incision. If it is still difficult, a third port incision would be made. The conversion rate (to 2-port or three port methods not open) is very low in most conditions.
“I believe the role of SITS as a first-line endoscopic approach is possible in nearly all patients. So far, I have performed roughly, SITS in more than 150 patients with various thoracic diseases, including esophagectomy in 5 cases using 2.5 cm single incision”.
However, the contraindications for the SITS approach are mainly those with “unstable hemodynamics in trauma”, “highly complicated cancer resection(such as sleeve lobectomy, etc)” and “thick and dense peel in chronic empyema”.
Dr. Chen was kind of the provide this clip of him performing single port thoracoscopy.
Over 150 cases, so far.
“According to my experience, patients with spontaneous pneumothorax and acute stage empyema as well as solitary pulmonary nodules are the best candidates for such procedure. The time required for the same operation is much shorter in single-port approach. For simple spontaneous pneumothorax, the time may be as short as 20-25 minutes. ( from skin incision to suture )”.
As I mentioned in my report (see publications linked below), the conversion rate of such condition is pretty low and worthy to try. In my experience, SITS w/o trocar greatly decrease incisional pain and have pleasant cosmetic results, as the wound can be extremely small”.
A recent case: Wedge resection by SITS
Procedure: single-port approach for a case of lung cancer in a 77 year-old woman.
Multiple wedge resections, pleural biopsy and LN smapling were performed.
The wound was 1.5 cm in length and the specimen is 7cm X 4cm ( solid part :2.5 cm ). The specimen was removed within an endo-bag. (From previous experience, I knew that a specimen of this size can be safely removed through a tiny incision w/o destruction of the specimen.
Her chest tube was removed within 24 hrs and patient reports minimal discomfort. ( I injected Marcaine in ICS to prevent neuralgia in all cases.)
Sometimes innovation is hard
As we’ve seen frequently in the history of medicine / surgery, early innovators and adopters of new technology are often face significant resistance from their colleagues despite utilizing ‘best-evidence’ to support their ideas. People, many people, including surgeons – don’t like change and are sometimes hesitant to learn and practice techniques that develop in the years following fellowship.
One of the reasons Dr. Chen contacted Cirugia de Torax is to share his experiences and this technique with other interested thoracic surgeons. ‘Unfortunately, only a small portion of thoracic surgeons would like to try such procedure in Taiwan. Actually, most of them considered the procedure not valuable. Therefore, I would like to publish more experiences in the journals, which is one way to tell them “to try”.
Wait.. Did you say single-port thoracoscopy for esophagectomy?
“Esophagectomy in my team was performed by single-port thoracoscopic approach (in the chest). However, the abdominal portion was performed with four-port or 5-port laparoscopic approach, because the abdominal part was done by another doctor who is not familiar with single-incision laparoscopy (SILS). However, I have to admit that esophagectomy through single-port approach is much more difficult than other procedures. The main reason for this is that the esophagus is located in posterior mediastinum.”
While I usually utilize a more anterior ICS as my port incision for other single-incision procedures because the anterior ICS is very easy, with low conversion ( to 2- or 3-port ) rate. However, the same port is not appropriate for esophagectomy because of poor visualization.
New Approach, the “Chen esophagectomy” but ergonomic considerations
“For the reason, I tried a more lateral port incision (usually 5 ICS along the mid-axillary line. ) This is a BIG problem for me due to ergonomic issues. Manipulation of endoscopic instruments and the endoscope through the port is uncomfortable. At times, I have to rest for a while in order to alleviate soreness in my arm”.
“The time-determining step is to loop the esophagus. Proximal and distal dissection as well as lymph node dissection would be done with a harmonic scalpel. (We resected the esophagus, the anastomosis is in the neck ). For uncomplicated case, the procedure in the chest takes aroud 1-2.5 hours”.
*American research data suggests that VATS is used for less than 30% of all thoracic surgery procedures. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that internationally, VATS is utilized with much higher frequency outside of the United States.
Articles about single-incision thoracoscopic surgery (SITS) by Dr. Chih-Hao Chen
Last fall, he published another case report on single incision VATS – lobectomy, and since then he has continued to operate and publish reports on his successes. Now he has an upcoming case report on a right-sided single-port pneumonectomy, which was largely held as one of the last frontiers in VATS procedures. (Pneumonectomy by standard VATS, despite being reported in the literature several years ago, remains a relatively uncommon procedure.)
While a common criticism of his work is related to the fact that removing a portion of the lung as large as a lobe, or an entire lung requires a small additional incision at the conclusion of the case – but these criticisms are weak at best – and fail to see the true clinical importance of his continued innovation and investigation in advancing video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery for the benefits of our patients. Ten years from now – single incision VATS will be a common procedure, and Drs. Gonzalez, Fernandez and De la Torre will be the ones responsible.
References: Single port pneumonectomy
Gonzalez-Rivas D, de la Torre M, Fernandez R, Garcia J. (2012). Single-incision video-assisted thoracoscopic right pneumonectomy. Surg Endosc. 2012 Jan 11. [Epub ahead of print – abstract re-posted below]
BACKGROUND:The most common approach for Video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) lobectomy is undertaken with three or four incisions, including a utility incision of about 3-5 cm. However, major pulmonary resections are amenable by using only a single utility incision. This video shows the technical procedure of a right pneumonectomy by single-incision approach with no rib spreading.
METHODS: A 52-year-old woman was proposed for single-incision VATS resection of a 5-cm right lower lobe adenocarcinoma. A 4-cm incision was made in the fifth intercostal space. We placed a 30-degree, high-definition, 10-mm thoracoscope in the posterior anterior part of the incision. Digital palpation confirmed that the tumor involved the fissure and the posterior portion of the upper lobe, which indicated the need for right pneumonectomy. We inserted the instruments through the anterior part of the utility incision to start the detachment of the right upper lobe by using a harmonic scalpel. The first step was dissecting the inferior pulmonary vein. The hilar structures were exposed by using harmonic scalpel and a long dissector (Fig. 1A). The upper and middle-lobe pulmonary veins were dissected and transected, allowing visualization of truncus anterior, which was then stapled. The inferior pulmonary vein and the intermediate truncus artery were divided, allowing optimal exposure to the main bronchus, which was stapled. The lung was removed in a protective bag by adding 1 cm to the incision, and a systematic lymph node dissection was performed. A single chest tube was placed in the posterior part of the utility incision.
RESULTS: Total surgery time was 210 min. The chest tube was removed on postoperative day 2, and the patient was discharged home on day 4 with no complications.
CONCLUSIONS: Single-port VATS pneumonectomy for selected cases is a feasible procedure, especially when performed from a center with previous experience in double-port VATS approach.
DISCUSSION:Recent advances in surgical and video-assisted techniques have allowed minimally invasive pneumonectomy to be undertaken safely. VATS pneumonectomy is not a new procedure and in fact was initially reported 15 years ago and was felt to result in less postoperative pain and a faster return to normal activities . Despite this, there have been only a few case reports or series published of VATS pneumonectomies [2,3].
Additional References/ Resources
Gonzalez – Rivas, D., Fernandez, R., De la Torre, M., & Martin – Ucar, A. E. (2012). Thoracoscopic lobectomy through a single incision.Multimedia manual cardio-thoracic surgery, Volume 2012. This is an excellent article which gives a detailed description, and overview of the techniques used in single incision surgery. Contains illustrations, full color photos and videos of the procedure.
Gonzalez-Rivas D, Paradela M, Fieira E, Velasco C. (2012). Single-incision video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy: initial results. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2012 Mar;143(3):745-7.
Discussion of a case report by Gonzalez, Paradela, Garcia & Dela Torre (2011) of a lobectomy by single incision thoracoscopic surgery.
Since there’s been quite a bit of interest in single-port thoracoscopic surgery (SITS) here at Cirugia de Torax.org – I’ve added information about SITS lobectomy. British surgeons, Rocco et. al had previously reported the outcomes of several wedge resections by uni-port (SITS) back in 2004 but this is the first case report that I’ve seen for lobectomies via this technique*.
Gonzalez et al. in Coruna, Spain published a case report of a lobectomy by SITS. The authors note that they have performed three cases by this technique at the time of article submission (November 2010).
As expected, the authors reported decreased post-operative pain and parathesias when using this technique. They also reported that while visibility is more limited with this approach, they feel that it is less problematic for surgeons already accustomed to, and familiar with double port lobectomies. This approach, in their experience, is best used for lower lobe lesions due to difficulties accessing and maneuvering for bronchial resection for upper lobectomies.
* If you’ve seen other published reports – please send the citations to the site.
Update: 25 July 2011
I contacted Dr. Gonzalez to inquire about his surgical experiences since the publication of the article this past March. Dr. Gonzalez reports that he and his colleagues (Dr. Mercedes De la Torre and Dr. Fernandez) have continued to practice SITS for lobectomies and other thoracic procedures, and that he is now using it for the majority of his cases.
Dr. Gonzalez states that many of his patients are discharged earlier (POD 2 or 3) and are experiencing less post-operative pain. He is planning future studies to demonstrate this.
Chen et. al discuss their experience with single incision thoracoscopic surgery (SITS) in the treatment of spontaneous pneumothorax in this Taiwanese study.
A study from Taiwan (April 2011) highlights the surgeons’ experience using single incision thoracoscopic surgery (SITS) for the treatment of spontaneous pneumothorax. While the study is small – involving 30 patients, with just ten patients receiving treatment via single incision thoracoscopy, it’s a useful study in demonstrating that SITS is not only possible but feasible for uncomplicated thoracic procedures.
The major advantage of using this procedure in the spontaneous pneumothorax population is the low level of underlying thoracic disease, or co-morbidities necessitating conversion to VATS or open surgery. In general, true spontaneous pneumothoraces occur in younger patients (teens and twenties) in the absence of other conditions such as infection, emphysema or effusion. The benefits of using this procedure in such a young, mobile population is reduced pain, and a speedier recovery – and returning these patients to work/ life faster, with less post-operative limitations.
As the authors noted, a consistent obstacle to widespread adoption of this surgical technique is the lack of specialized surgical instruments. This has also plagued single incision laparoscopy to some extent, with several minor modifications being made by practicing surgeons to overcome these problems, primarily of positioning several instruments thru a single port*. This is more problematic in thoracic surgery than general surgery due to patient positioning. (In general surgery the patient is usually laying supine, allowing for a flat surface).
In thoracic surgery, the patient’s side lying positioning puts the operator at greater disadvantage, with gravity working against the surgeon. As mentioned in a previous post – there is a commercial port of multiple instruments available, however it is costly, unwieldly and requires larger incisions (making SITS more of a mini-thoracotomy). The other mechanical problem is the instruments themselves – when placed in a single incision, care has to be taken to prevent the instruments from obstructing the movements of each other. The authors were able to overcome this obstacle thru practice, but suggest needed modifications to existing instruments.
Despite frequently cited concerns about visibility with this technique, in the article (and confirmed by my own observations in the operating room), properly done single incision thoracoscopy offers the same visibility as multi-port (VATS) thoracoscopy. (See the original article full text for photos of procedure illustrating visibility.)
More recently, (June 2011) Berlanga & Gigirey in Caceres, Spain reported the use of SITS for spontaneous pneumothorax in 13 patients. They reported similar findings, and came to the same conclusions as Chen et. al. However, these researchers used the commercially available port and reported satisfactory results.
There is a place for single incision thoracoscopy within thoracic surgery. However, it will take continued research to further delineate its role, and surgical innovation to adapt the current instrumentation for more effective and surgeon friendly use.
Berlanga, L. A. & Gigirey, O. (2011). Uniportal video-assisted thoracic surgery for primary spontaneous pneumothorax using a single–incision laparoscopic surgery port: a feasible and safe procedure. Surg Endosc. 2011 Jun;25(6):2044-7. Epub 2010 Dec 7. Full text article not available for link (paid article).
the development and application of single-port thoracoscopic surgery, (or the lack there of.)
Right now, single incision scopic surgery (laparoscopic, generally*) is in all the literature. This is a minimally invasinve technique using only one port (or incision) for access to the surgical area (usually the abdomen).
I’ve seen it performed by several general surgeons as part of my travels for BogotaSurgery.org and read the literature surrounding it, but hadn’t heard much about it’s close kin, single port thoracoscopic surgery, though I’d seen it performed during a trip to Cartagena early last year. At the time, I immediately noticed the difference in technique in the operating room (it’s not something you miss) but the surgeon performing the procedure just sort of shrugged, and went back to work, a “Yeah, well.. I do this all the time sort of thing.”
Since that trip, I’ve talked to several thoracic surgeons about this technique, and they all agreed; that due to limited visibility and maneverability, it was a procedure with “limited applications”. But it didn’t sound like any of them had attempted it, or knew much on the subject.
Since ‘limited applications’ describes many surgical techniques, I decided to go to the literature, and see what has been published on the topic.
Hmm.. Not much.
An article from two Spanish surgeons dating to 2009. It’s a well written article with a decent amount of subjects (24) for the treatment of spontaneous pneumothorax. They mention one of the adaptations required is use of the Coviden multi-station system to hold instruments – this is a silly piece of equipment that costs about a thousand dollars. I know that in general surgery, several surgeons have adapted a sterile surgical glove for the same purpose. Since use of this costly but specialized piece of rubber also requires an even bigger incision – I hope these surgeons have since moved on to the sterile glove technique. In this study, length of stay and amount of post-operative pain were not greatly reduced, which was a little surprising.
Jutley, Khalil and Rocco published a paper in 2005 in the European Journaol of Cardiothoracic Surgery on the same technique for spontaneous pneumothorax with 16 patients having uniport surgery (versus 19 in the standard three port group) with positive findings of reduced pain, and less residual neuralgias.
An Italian group reported similar positive findings (compared to Jutley, et. al) in 2008 on a similar sized group/ population (28 patients uniport versus 23 ‘traditional’ 3 port). They also reported a minimum of problems with the uniport technique.
So, three published studies (there are probably more, but this is what I could find over at Pubmed) with minimum of fuss or problems… So, why isn’t there more single incision thoracoscopic surgery? Where are the surgeons performing this technique? Maybe I’m just not talking to enough thoracic surgeons, or the right thoracic surgeons..
I’ll get back to you on this.
* This laparoscopic technique goes by the anacronym: SILS for single-incision laparoscopic surgery. It is also called uni-port (uniportal) laparoscopy and it has both it’s champions and detractors.