What is a thoracoscopy?
A thoracoscopy is a procedure that examines the space between your lungs and ribcage (called the pleural space) using a special telescope. A thoracoscopy is carried in order to determine the cause of any chest symptoms you might have.
A thoracoscopy, or pleurodesis, is also performed to treat a pleural effusion (where there is too much fluid in the pleural space) or a pneumothorax (where air escapes into the pleural space) that may cause your lung to collapse.
Ahead of the thoracoscopy you might undergo various tests such as:
- pulmonary function tests
- chest x-ray
What does the procedure involve?
Your doctor will give you a sedative to help you relax. A thoracoscopy is sometimes performed under a general anaesthetic. A thoracoscopy usually takes about three-quarters of an hour.
If local anaesthetic is applied you will feel a little sting when the consultant injects it in the area. The consultant will then make small incisions on the side of your chest and insert the thoracoscope, a small, flexible tube through it. After inspecting the lung and pleura, the surgeon will remove any necessary tissue or fluid.
After the investigation is complete, the lung is re-expanded and the incisions are stitched to close the wound. A small tube might be placed there to drain any remaining air or fluid.
What complications can appear?
This is generally a safe procedure, however certain complications may arise such as:
- Infection in the pleural space
- Allergic reaction
- Surgical emphysema
- Pulmonary oedema
After the procedure your chest will remain sore for a while, but that can be managed with painkillers.
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after you have recovered from the sedative. A member of the healthcare team will tell you what was found during the thoracoscopy and will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need. You should be able to go back to work between one and five days after the thoracoscopy, but your consultant will advise you according to your situation.