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Risks

It is easier for patients to recover from VATS compared with regular chest surgery (often called "open" surgery) because the wounds from the incisions are much smaller. You will have a small straight scar (less than an inch long) wherever the instruments were inserted.

There are some potentially serious risks from VATS surgery. Air leaks from the lung that don't heal up quickly can keep you in the hospital a longer time and occasionally require additional treatment. Less than one percent of patients have significant bleeding requiring a transfusion or larger operation. There are also the risks related to anesthesia.

A less serious complication is pain in the chest or shoulder for a few days caused by irritation of the diaphragm and chest wall from the procedure.

Sometimes, especially if cancer is diagnosed, your doctors will decide that you need a larger surgery to treat your problem in the safest manner possible. Your doctors might discuss this option with you ahead of time. That way, if necessary, the doctors can change over to a larger incision and do open chest surgery while you are still under anesthesia.

Death from complications of VATS surgery occurs very rarely, and much less frequently than with open chest surgery.

From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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