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Thoracic Surgery

Technician with vial

The thoracic surgeons at the University of Chicago Medicine offer patients the latest treatment options -- including video-assisted and robotic procedures -- for diseases of the lungs, esophagus and mediastinum. Nationally recognized leaders in the thoracic surgery field, our surgeons routinely treat individuals who have complex disease and/or coexisting medical problems as well as patients who have had previous thoracic surgical procedures.

Why Choose a Thoracic Surgeon?

Mark Ferguson, MD, and patient

Patients with lung cancer have better outcomes and higher cure rates when treated by a thoracic surgeon. For example, a recent study of outcomes after lung cancer surgery demonstrated fewer complications and a higher success rate of cancerous node removal in patients who had their procedures performed by a thoracic surgeon, rather than a cardiac or general surgeon. Our board certified thoracic surgeons concentrate solely on treating conditions in the thoracic cavity.

At the University of Chicago Medicine, our thoracic surgeons work on an integrated team that also includes pulmonologists, medical and radiation oncologists, radiologists, gastroenterologists and critical care medicine specialists. This multidisciplinary team approach enables our specialists to consider many treatment options and ensures that each patient gets optimal care.

Our thoracic surgery team actively participates in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons National Database, an important initiative that collects patient care outcomes data to help surgeons benchmark and improve quality of care.

Minimally Invasive Techniques Improve Outcomes

Our surgeons have long been leaders in minimally invasive surgery for thoracic conditions. Minimally invasive techniques, which include video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) and robot-assisted procedures, reduce pain and scarring, shorten the length of hospital stay and decrease the time to return to normal activities. These benefits are why our surgeons use minimally invasive techniques for approximately 70 percent of major lung resection surgeries -- a remarkable achievement over the nationwide average of 40 percent.

Thoracic surgeons often use minimally invasive techniques to perform these procedures:

Learn more about minimally invasive thoracic surgery services:

Nationally Recognized Cancer Program

Our thoracic surgeons are members of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center -- ranked among the best in the nation by U.S.News & World Report. Surgeons work closely with thoracic oncologists and other specialists to diagnose and treat cancers of the lung, esophagus, pleura and thymus. Learn more about cancers treated by our thoracic surgeons:

Comprehensive Treatment for Lung Disorders

In addition to lung cancer, our thoracic surgeons treat a variety of other lung conditions, including:

  • Pulmonary nodules (small masses in the lungs): Because lung nodules could indicate evidence of lung cancer, they need to be accurately diagnosed and treated. After evaluation, our surgeons may perform minimally invasive surgery to treat the nodules.
  • Pleural effusion (excess fluid around the lungs): We use a video-assisted thoracoscopic technique to perform pleurodesis or to insert small drainage catheters. Both are designed to stop fluid build-up.
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung): When a patient's lung collapses more than once, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery is performed to prevent it from recurring.

Leaders in Lung Transplantation

The University of Chicago Medicine also has one of the leading lung transplant programs in the country. Our highly experienced team of thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, and anesthesiologists have cared for hundreds of lung transplant patients. »Read more about our lung transplantation program.

Surgical Care for Esophageal Conditions

We provide surgical treatments for esophageal disorders, including esophageal cancer and benign esophageal diseases:

  • Esophageal cancer is often treated by surgical removal, but we also perform simpler procedures to improve swallowing, such as laser therapy and stent placement.
  • Surgery to treat achalasia is often performed using minimally invasive techniques as well.
  • When other treatments for Barrett's esophagus are not enough, our surgeons can remove the esophagus (esophagectomy), typically performed using minimally invasive techniques

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