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Thoracoscopy is minimally invasive procedure performed both for curative and investigative purposes. It is also known as pleuroscopy. In this procedure, a thoracoscope is introduced through a tiny incision in the chest. Through other small incision, an endoscope is inserted to obtain internal images and videos. It allows the doctors and surgeons to inspect the pleura, lungs, mediastinum and to identify the signs of pleural mesothelioma like pleural thickening, inflammations, plaques or nodule-like growth on the pleura.

The doctor may drain the excess pleural fluid out of the pleural cavity or perform wedge resection through this procedure. The doctor may also take a sample of tissue for further assessment and diagnosis. When surgeons perform thoracoscopy to aid another surgery, it is termed as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery or VATS.

The patient must inform his doctor if he is on anticoagulants, NSAIDs or any other drugs which may require to be stopped for the surgery. There would be several tests conducted to identify the areas with cancerous growth. He won’t be allowed to drink or eat anything for at least 12 hours prior to the procedure. Right before it, the patient is placed under general anesthesia and a catheter is administered in the arm. The patient would be placed on his side with arm elevated. Through the incisions, several tubes, drainage tube would be introduced into the chest. With the endoscope, the doctor can video the internal images on a TV screen. After the inspection, the doctor may surgically remove the cancerous tissue or excess pleural fluid as a diagnostic or a curative measure. Once done, all the incisions except one with the drainage tube are stitched closed. It is kept for a couple of days to drain out the fluid and air from the chest. The entire procedure lasts for 45 to 90 minutes. It takes a few days for the lungs to re-expand without any leaks. The patient is also persuaded to do coughing and breathing movements to prevent pneumonia. The patient is free to go home once the tube is removed.

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How Does Thoracoscopy Help People with Mesothelioma?

Repetitive open-chest surgeries are not ideal for people with mesothelioma. Thus, a minimally invasive procedure is well-recommended by the doctors. It helps them to perform surgical treatments like pericardiectomy. Thoracoscopy helps the doctor not only to inspect the lungs, pleura, mediastinum, but also allows to remove tissue for confirmed diagnosis of mesothelioma. The doctor can also drain out the excess pleural fluid out of the chest cavity helping the patients breathe with ease. It reduces the pressure from the lungs, therefore, improves the quality of life.

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Expected Cost of Thoracoscopy

It depends on the purpose of thoracoscopy, i.e. like just draining out the fluid or taking a small for biopsy or just inspection of the lung area. There are other expenses to include in the cost of thoracoscopy like to cost of drugs, hospital stay and so on.

Possible Side Effects of Thoracoscopy

Though it is a minor procedure and comparatively less risky than thoracotomy, but there are still some potential complications associated with it. The patients may experience bleeding, drainage, infection, pain or numbness around the wound. Some may suffer from tumor seeding, pneumonia, air leakage or adverse response to the anesthesia. Despite all these complications and risks, it has a higher rate of morbidity and mortality rates than thoracotomy. Also, it is simple, secure, more reliable yet less painful procedure for diagnosing and staging the mesothelioma.

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