Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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DeBakey VA Offers Cutting-edge, Minimally Invasive Surgery for Lung Cancer

August 10, 2009

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“I am very grateful to Dr. Cornwell and her team. I specifically wanted a minimally invasive procedure to cut down on the amount of recovery time and was thrilled to find out the Houston VA offered this technique,” said Veteran Richard Rasmussen with Lorraine Cornwell, M.D., thoracic surgeon who is among the first surgeons in the VA health care system to employ this new treatment modality. Photo: Bobbi Gruner, PAO

 

HOUSTON – Surgeons at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) now offer a minimally invasive surgical treatment, video-assisted lobectomy, for Veterans with early-stage lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with approximately 180,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

While surgical resection offers the best chance of a cure for those with early-stage lung cancer, the traditional open-chest approach (called a thoracotomy) typically requires five to seven days of recovery in the hospital, with an extended recovery at home.

Thoracic surgeons at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) offer a less invasive surgical approach called a video-assisted lobectomy for select patients as treatment of early-stage lung cancer. This video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) technique reduces a patient’s hospital stay to about three to four days and the patient experiences a more rapid recovery with less pain after surgery as compared with the traditional thoracotomy approach.

“Video-assisted thoracic surgery represents a great advance in our ability to treat patients with early-stage lung cancer.  The surgical outcomes of this minimally invasive procedure are comparable to traditional lobectomy outcomes,” said Lorraine Cornwell, M.D., thoracic surgeon who is among the first surgeons in the VA health care system to employ this new treatment modality. “By performing the less-invasive version of this surgery, the patient may enjoy a faster and less uncomfortable recovery.”

A lobectomy is the surgical removal of a large section of lung and is the most common surgery performed to treat lung cancer. Lobectomy has been traditionally performed during thoracotomy surgery. During thoracotomy surgery, an incision is made on the side of the chest between the ribs. The ribs are then spread apart so the surgeon can see into the chest cavity and remove the tumor or affected tissue.

During VATS lobectomy, three 1-inch incisions and one 3- to 4-inch incision are made in the chest to provide access to the chest cavity without spreading of the ribs. A small video camera and surgical instruments are inserted into the incisions. The surgeon removes the tumor or affected tissue from the lung through the small incisions.
“I am very grateful to Dr. Cornwell and her team. I specifically wanted a minimally invasive procedure to cut down on the amount of recovery time and was thrilled to find out the Houston VA offered this technique,” said Veteran Richard Rasmussen of Houston. “I feel so much better and look forward to going home.”

Although minimally invasive approaches are considered for every patient, some patients may not be candidates for video-assisted lobectomy. Traditional thoracotomy may be more appropriate for some patients with large tumors, involved lymph nodes, or prior chest surgery.

“There are a great many advanced treatment options for lung cancer and tumors on the horizon. The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center constantly strives to open new doors and make these alternatives available for our Veterans,” said David H. Berger, M.D., Operative Care Line executive.

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