Conditions we treat

The Department of Thoracic Surgery and its faculty, provide operative, perioperative and critical care for all diseases of the thorax (chest), including:

  • Early and locally advanced lung cancer
  • Pretreatment staging of thoracic neoplasms
  • Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) and video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS)
  • Lung transplantation
  • Lung volume reductions surgery (LVRS, 'emphysema surgery')
  • Esophageal carcinoma
  • Management of complex esophageal diseases (complications of gastroesophageal reflux, neuromotor diseases, etc.)
  • Tracheal tumors and airway management
  • Malignant pleural effusions
  • Mesothelioma and other malignant pleural diseases
  • Chest wall tumors and chest wall deformities (pectus excavatum)
  • Pulmonary metastases
  • Mediastinal tumors (thymoma)
  • and others...

What is Thoracic Surgery?

Thoracic surgery is the treatment of diseases and injuries of the heart, lungs, mediastinum, esophagus, chest wall, diaphragm, and great vessels.
Thoracic Surgery encompasses the operative, perioperative, and surgical critical care of patients with acquired and congenital pathologic conditions within the chest. Included is the surgical repair of heart lesions, and congenital and acquired conditions of the coronary arteries, valves, and myocardium. The specialty also includes the management of pathologic conditions of the lung, esophagus and chest wall, abnormalities of the great vessels, tumors of the mediastinum, and diseases of the diaphragm and pericardium. Management of the airway and injuries to the chest are also within the scope of the specialty.

Also included are congenital and acquired lesions (including infections, trauma, tumors, and metabolic disorders) of both the heart and blood vessels in the thorax, as well as diseases involving the lungs, pleura, chest wall, mediastinum, esophagus, and diaphragm. In addition, the ability to establish a precise diagnosis, an essential step toward proper therapy, requires familiarity with diagnostic procedures such as cardiac catheterization, angiography, electrocardiography, imaging techniques, endoscopy, tissue biopsy, and biologic and biochemical tests appropriate to thoracic diseases. 

The faculty within the Department of Thoracic Surgery are committed to ensuring an optimal individual treatment plan for each patient.  This treatment plan may be developed in coordination with other faculty in other departments.  This multidisciplinary treatment plan carries great value for the patient by ensuring that all options for care are fully evaluated prior to the initiation of definitive therapy.  

During our evaluation, and treatment plan development, we make every effort to minimize waiting times, as well as risk and discomfort for our patients.

Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery

Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) or thoracoscopic surgery surgically corrects certain types of physical diseases within the chest and upper abdomen, while minimizing any disturbance of surrounding tissues. For example, thoracoscopic operations requires smaller incisions in the patient than those used for an open procedure. The typical result for our patients is less discomfort and less time in the hospital. The techniques of minimally invasive surgery may be used in operations performed by various surgical specialty departments and divisions within Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

At Vanderbilt we have pioneered the use of minimally invasive thoracic surgery for such diseases as pulmonary neoplasms, selected patients with isolated solitary non-sarcomatous pulmonary metastasis, and hyperhidrosis. The procedures minimize discomfort and facilitates rapid recovery and return to work or other activities.  We use video-assisted thoracoscopy or laparoscopy for diagnostic procedures for lung tumors, pleural cancers (such as mesothelioma), or mediastinal tumors.