To evaluate the diagnostic value of video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), VATS exploration was performed in 135 patients with histologically/cytologically proven or suspected lung cancer. In 31 patients with pulmonary nodules suspected to be lung cancer, VATS exploration was intended to determine their histology by wedge resection. A histological diagnosis was made in all of the patients: 12 lung cancers (38.7%), 12 inflammatory granulomas (38.7%), four hamartomas (12.9%), and three others. VATS exploration (staging) was performed in 116 surgical candidates with documented lung cancer, including the 12 patients diagnosed by VATS wedge resection. Inoperable factors were demonstrated by this procedure in five patients (4.3%): malignant effusion without dissemination in three, malignant effusion with extensive dissemination in one, and extensive dissemination without effusion in one. Furthermore, N2 nodal metastasis at Botallo's ligament was demonstrated by this procedure in two patients, which met the eligibility criteria for a clinical study. Although the documented number of patients was relatively small, VATS exploration obviated the need for painful thoracotomy, selecting better treatment and for evaluating eligibility criteria for prospective clinical trials. The results suggest that this procedure is useful in candidates for lung cancer surgery.
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