Thoracoscopy is the use of a rigid scope to evaluate the thoracic cavity. Typically this is performed in either dorsal recumbency (on their back) or lateral recumbency (on side) and involves an average of 3 portals. These patients typically experience a marked decrease in pain post-operatively when compared to a lateral thoracotomy or median sternotomy (open chest procedures).
Indications for thoracoscopy are as follows (not limited to): exploration of the thoracic cavity, pleural effusion of unknown origin, idiopathic pericardial effusion, lung resection, vascular ring anomaly, biopsies of the chest cavity, lymph node biopsy, pyothorax evaluation, etc. When appropriate, the major advantage is patient comfort, decreased morbidity, and in many cases better visualization. One of the most common reasons for thoracoscopy is pericardial effusion. This can be idiopathic, neoplastic or inflammatory. Therapy for pericardial effusions could include a pericardial window which can be done via thoracoscopy. Common risks with this procedure are as follows: herniation of the heart, fibrosis of the window, and continued hemorrhage.
Results of thoracoscopic pericardial windows are usually very successful when performed in the appropriate patient. It can provide long-term resolution in patients with idiopathic effusion and inflammatory disease. Quality of life can be improved in cases with cancer.
Overall, thoracoscopic procedures are increasing in popularity. The thought of being able to address surgical problems with minimal incision versus using large invasive incisions is very attractive. Please feel free to discuss these options with your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon.