Not many of us realize this, but the need for thoracic surgery can arise at any point during a person’s life. Now, we are sure that you are a bit unsettled by this rather unwelcome bit of news. And we get you as well! You don’t have a clue about this type of surgery, how are you not supposed to be a little shaken? But the good news is that it is never too late to catch up on stuff, especially in the 21st century where everything is just one click away from you. So, we urge you to avail of this opportunity that we are going to present in front of you now. We are going to talk about thoracic surgery in detail in this discussion. Stay with us till the very end of this discussion, and learn about this surgical procedure in detail. Now, we are not saying you will learn everything about thoracic surgeries from just one discussion, but you will be well familiar with the basics anyway.
Thoracic surgery: an overview
How many of you think about thyroid when you hear the word thoracic? Well, it is time to clear any ambiguities that might be floating in your mind. The term thoracic surgery refers to the surgical treatment of organs inside a person’s thorax [i]. We know that not all of you got full marks on their anatomy exam, which is why we would like to mention here, the definition of the thorax as well. The chest region of your body is called the thorax. Now your next would be about organs, so let us answer that as well. Organs located in the thorax include the lungs, oesophagus, thymus, and heart. So, if you come across the term cardiothoracic surgery in the future, don’t be confused!
Before we jump into the details of the surgery itself, it is important to understand why someone would need thoracic surgery in the first place. Well, the most obvious reason for thoracic surgery is, of course, an injury or an accident. However, that is not the only reason you might need to consult a thoracic expert. Conditions like cancer can also lead to a situation where a person’s survival might be dependent on thoracic surgery. Congenital conditions can also lead to the need for surgical treatment of this nature.
How is it done?
In this section of the discussion, we talk about the basic steps involved in thoracic surgery. The first step, as many of you might have guessed rightly, is the application of anesthesia. Then, a breathing tube is inserted, the purpose of which is to keep the lungs inflated during the surgery. In the first purely surgical step, an incision is created. We are talking about one incision here only, but sometimes, as many as three incisions are created. A video camera is then inserted via these incisions, the idea is to provide the surgeon with the best possible view of the internal situation. During the surgery, scarred tissues are removed and a draining tube is inserted into the chest. It is for re-inflation, in case you are wondering about its purpose. Please note that this is a rather simplified version of events, the actual process is a little more complex [ii] than this narration of events.
Just to give you an idea about the advancement in the field of cardiothoracic surgeries, we are going to talk about the types of cardiothoracic surgeries. There are two main types of thoracic surgery. The VATS and robotic-assisted surgery. VATS stands for video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. In this type of thoracic surgery, a small tube is inserted between the ribs [iii]. There is a tiny camera attached to the tube, which gives the surgeon, an internal view of the chest cavity. Hence, reaching specific tissues that are damaged, without splitting the chest open becomes possible. In robot-assisted surgery, a robotic surgical system is controlled by a surgeon, the robotic instruments take care of the whole surgical procedure. The surgeon’s role comes when he has to remove the damaged tissue from the thorax. There you are then, you know all about the types as well!
Relieves the pain, and goodness knows if there is a bigger advantage than that! But if we were to compare the VATS with the traditional thoracic surgery methods, it becomes quite obvious that there are plenty of benefits associated with the former as compared to the latter . Firstly, the magnitude of postoperative pain is relatively less, then the duration of stay in the hospital is also reduced by a great deal, and lastly, the overall recovery time is also significantly less.
More than side effects, it is the risks that you should be worried about more [iv]. The most common risk associated with surgery, and not just the cardiothoracic surgeries, is that of infection. And this risk is minimized only if standard protocols are followed. Other than that, specific risks associated with thoracic surgery include infections and air leakages from the lungs. In extreme cases, bleeding is also observed, but it is common in severe cases only.
The average span of recovery is between two-four weeks for cardiothoracic surgeries. However, there is a difference between the recovery time for open surgeries and minimally invasive surgeries. More often than not, it is dependent upon the specific condition of a patient[v].
Condition in Pakistan
Thoracic surgery is a costly treatment in countries like Pakistan. There are not many states of the art healthcare facilities in the country anyway, and the ones that do exist charge too much for such a surgery. Hence, the treatment is out of reach for members of the underprivileged section of the society. In fact, if it was not for welfare organizations like Transparent Hands, there would have been very little hope for these people.
Well, folks, that would be all for now. We hope that through this article, your pool of knowledge about surgical procedures has increased considerably. And on this optimistic note, we bid you farewell from this discussion!