In contrast to its use in other surgical disciplines, intraoperative sonography has so far been of minor importance in thoracic surgery. The technique of intrathoracic, intraoperative, ultrasonic examination was applied in 85 patients with different indications: in 61 patients during thoracoscopy, in 24 patients during open thoracic surgery. 6 patients eventually underwent a combination of both procedures. In order to improve the intrathoracic maneuverability of the sonographic probe we developed an electrically controllable handle for the probe. The examinations showed a high sensitivity of thoracoscopic ultrasonography for localization of intrapulmonary tumors. In addition, ultrasound was applied to assess the operability of central tumors. The sound frequency available so far for intraoperative application allows a safe distinction of non-infiltrating tumors from vascular structures; the reliable identification of an infiltration mostly requires a higher resolution. If our experiences are confirmed by further application of the method, explorative thoracotomies will surely be partly replaced by explorative thoracoscopic interventions. Ultrasonography has also proved to be useful in visualisation of mediastinal lymph-nodes and tumors, with the possibility of assessing their size.
Video-assisted thoracoscopic (VAT) debridement is gaining importance in the fibrino-purulent phase of empyema thoracis. However, evaluation of this access compared with mere chest tube drainage or thoracotomy remains unsatisfactory. A total of 356 parapneumonic empyemas from 1986 to 1997 were retrospectively analyzed concerning the results after primary treatment (chest tube 225, thoracotomy 80, VAT 51). The three groups did not differ significantly for gender and associated diseases. Median age of the chest tube drainage group (54 years) was higher than for thoracotomy (43.5 years) or VAT (39 years). Median duration of chest tube treatment after thoracotomy (7 days) was shorter than after VAT (13 days) or chest tube drainage (20 days) (P < 0.0001). The more invasive procedures were also superior to the lesser invasive treatment concerning duration of postoperative hospitalization, recurrence rate and treatment failures. In spite of its better results thoracotomy will be pushed back by VAT in the treatment of empyema thoracis. Acceptance of VAT is reflected in rising numbers of admissions. Based on these retrospective results we are planning a prospective multicenter trial to evaluate the indication for VAT in empyema thoracis.
As video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery has been performed for more than five years an inquiry was made to register and if possible to evaluate different pleurodesis procedures in the treatment of pneumothorax in Germany. 19 institutions provided information about 1365 operations. Overall there were 88 recurrences (6.5%). 26 (1.9%) severe bleeding complications or hemothorax and 39 (2.9%) persisting air leaks required further interventions. There were two (0.1%) hospital deaths. Recurrence rates showed a significant (p < 0.001) correlation to the type of pleurodesis used. Talcum pleurodesis had no recurrences and fibrin glue pleurodesis had the highest rate of recurrence (16.4%) both procedures being less frequent. After causal treatment, i.e. resection without any pleurodesis, recurrence rate is inconsistent and was 10.2% overall. Pleural abrasion was followed by a recurrence rate of 7.9% and pleurectomy of 4.4%. Both procedures induced significantly (p = 0.01) more bleeding complications (about 3%) than other procedures (0.4%). Promising was coagulation of the pleura parietalis with a recurrence rate of only 2.7% and a low rate of complications.
The application of endoscopic techniques is common in the treatment of tracheal and bronchial diseases today. Bronchoscopic interventions are used in both elective and emergency situations. Laser therapy for malignant tumors is purely palliative in most cases and should only be performed in nonsurgical patients. However, 30% of lung cancers cause obstruction in the trachea and main bronchi. Benign tumors and tracheal stenoses could require laser recanalization or the implantation of stents, if surgery will be the second step or will not be possible. In patients with foreign body aspiration, massive hemoptysis, or severe obstruction of the trachea, emergency bronchoscopy is necessary. A more recent type of bronchoscopic intervention is the treatment of bronchial stump or anastomosis insufficiency as well as minimal iatrogenic injuries using spongiotic fillings or stent implantation. The use of therapeutic bronchoscopy requires great experience in rigid and flexible bronchoscopy, the possibility of high-frequency jet ventilation as well as laser and argon application, and the possibility to implant different types of stents. More advanced bronchoscopic interventions should only be done if a department of thoracic surgery exists, in view of the potential need to control complications or perform further treatment. Especially the bronchoscopic treatment of tracheal stenosis should be performed by the thoracic surgeon himself or in close contact with a thoracic surgeon who is experienced in tracheal resections.
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