When doctors talk about thoracic conditions, they generally mean conditions affecting the lungs, esophagus (muscular tube that connects your throat to your stomach), trachea (windpipe), ribs and breastbone, connective muscles and tissues, and membranes that line your chest cavity and protect your organs. While the chest also contains your heart, conditions of the heart are most often talked about as cardiac or cardiovascular conditions.
Thoracic conditions that require medical care include cancer found in any area of the chest, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), benign tumors, trauma-related injuries, hernias in this region, and others. In the case of cancer or when lifestyle changes, medicine, and other options do not ease symptoms of other conditions, your doctor may suggest surgery.
In the past, doctors only performed open surgery, which required a long incision in the chest skin and muscles. Open chest surgeries also often required surgeons to separate the ribs, crack the breastbone, or remove a rib to allow the surgeon to see and work on the area of concern. Today, surgeons can perform many procedures using minimally invasive video-assisted thoracoscopic or robotic-assisted surgery, possibly with da Vinci.
Both minimally invasive surgical approaches require only a few small incisions that doctors use to insert surgical equipment and a camera for viewing. In video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, doctors use special long-handled tools to perform surgery while viewing magnified images from the videoscope (camera) on a video screen. 
Learn more about what robotic assisted surgery is and how surgeons use the technology here.
Patient undergoes Robotic Esophagectomy
St Joes Hamilton, April 2022
Robotic surgery: excellence in the service of patients
les affaires, Oct 2019
St. Joes Expands Robotic Surgery Program
CHCH, April 2015
A first in Quebec: two robotic chest operations
la press, Dec 2013
Reported benefits of robot assisted thoracic surgery include:
- To Update
Understanding Minimally Invasive Robot Assisted Lung Surgery (American Lung Association)
Thoracic surgeon Dr. Wael Hanna of St Josephs Health Care in Hamilton and his patient discuss using robot assisted surgery to treat cancer (CHCH)
Risks & Considerations
Patients have also developed support areas where they are able to speak with each other about the surgery, their experiences, and any issues that they have faced during their treatment. To learn more check out the additional resources above or visit the community section of this website.