Thoracic surgery includes all operations performed on organs inside the chest cavity – the heart, lungs and esophagus. Operations on the heart continue to be performed exclusively by cardiothoracic surgeons (surgeons who have completed training in general surgery followed by advanced training in cardiothoracic surgery).

Because of the prevalence of diseases of the lungs and esophagus such as lung cancer, esophageal cancer, infections in the chest, reflux and other disorders, operations designed to treat these afflictions are often done by either general surgeons or cardiothoracic surgeons. As the medical profession has grown to understand more about these disorders and their prevalence and compelxity increases, there has been a trend toward sub-specialization within the field of cardiothoracic surgery. Operations on the heart and great vessels (e.g. aorta) are done by cardiac surgeons. Thoracic surgeons perform operations on the lungs, the lining of the lung called pleura, esophagus, chest wall and mediastinum. 

Thoracic surgery is a very specialized area of medicine that few medical institutions in the country offer. Our thoracic surgeons and their focused expertise help make Inova Heart and Vascular Institute a standout among medical centers both nationally and worldwide. In fact, there are fewer than 25 thoracic surgery programs in the United States that offer the breadth and depth of thoracic surgical services found here at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute.

Patient Testimonial

Ed had chemotherapy and radiation to treat Barrett’s esophagus and stage III esophageal cancer, then successfully underwent an esophagogastrectomy using robotic surgery to remove his tumor.

"This technology just makes sense because it's so much less demanding on the patient’s body."

Read Ed's story arrows

More about thoracic surgery at Inova

Prior to minimally invasive surgical options, thoracic surgical procedures were traditional operations requiring large incisions, the spreading of the ribs and sometimes removal of one or more ribs to achieve adequate visualization of the organs being treated. Minimally invasive techniques offer many benefits, including shorter hospital stays, significantly less post-operative pain and a faster return to regular activities.

Our comprehensive program tailors each procedure and surgical approach to the patient's needs, preferences and condition. Our overall philosophy is to offer patients minimally invasive procedures whenever possible, as long as that treatment is the most appropriate choice for the patient's condition. We do recognize that sometimes a traditional or “open” operation is the better choice to ensure the best possible surgical outcome.

Patients who come to Inova Heart and Vascular Institute have the complete spectrum of thoracic surgical treatment options available, including:

  • Anatomic and non-anatomic lung resections (removal of any different portions of the lung)
  • Biopsy or resection of mediastinal tumors (removal of growths in between the lungs)
  • Esophagogastrectomy (removal of the esophagus with reconstruction)
  • Hiatal hernia repairs (correction of intra-thoracic stomach)
  • Nissen fundoplication (surgical treatment for gastroesophageal reflux)

We are able to perform a variety of operations using cutting-edge technologies such as:

  • Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS): The surgeon makes two incisions of about 2 to 4 centimeters in length. A camera is inserted into one incision and projects the inside of the body onto a high definition flat screen monitor. The surgeon watches the screen while inserting instruments through the second incision to perform the surgery.
  • Laparoscopic surgery: Similar to VATS, a few small incisions are made in the belly in order to get access to the abdomen. The operation is performed through the use of a small video camera and long instruments controlled by the surgeon and his assistant.
  • Robotic surgery: Several years ago, the daVinci® robotic-assisted surgical platform was added to our arsenal of advanced surgical instruments. The technology utilizes either the VATS or laparoscopic approaches to enter the body cavities. The surgeon then sits at a computer console that translates his hand movements into precise robotic arm movements, allowing the delicate and precise control of tiny instruments working inside the patient’s body. The surgeon’s vision is enhanced through state-of-the-art, three-dimensional, high definition images on the monitor.