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Thoracic Surgery

If you’re living with a serious condition affecting the thoracic region of the body, our team of surgeons can help you get back to living a life free from chronic inflammation and discomfort.

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Small incisions, big impacts

The thoracic area is the space between your neck and abdomen and is responsible for some of the most important bodily functions, like breathing and supporting the weight of your body. When this bodily region isn't working how it should, it can have serious effects on your health.

We’re here to over-deliver on care when your thoracic health needs are anything but average. We use the latest minimally invasive surgical techniques, including bronchoscopy and thymectomy, to get you back to living your best life. And if you ever have questions or just need to talk, we'll always be here for you.

Gennaro Carpinito, MD uses the daVinci robot during an urology surgery in the operating room at Tufts Medical Center.
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Conditions

Surgery can be a treatment solution for many thoracic conditions, including:

Achalasia
Chest wall trauma
Chest wall tumors
COPD
Esophageal cancer
Heartburn
Hyperhidrosis
Interstitial lung diseases
Lung cancer
Lung masses
Lung nodules
Mediastinal masses
Mediastinal tumors
Myasthenia gravis
Tracheal disorders

Achalasia

Achalasia is an esophageal disorder where food doesn’t move from your mouth to your stomach properly. It occurs when nerves in your esophagus and lower esophageal valve are damaged or destroyed, affecting the typical movements of your esophagus.

Common achalasia symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing or choking during meals
  • Difficulty swallowing solids and liquids
  • Feeling of food getting stuck in your throat or chest
  • Heartburn
  • Uncontrolled regurgitation of undigested food
  • Vomiting after or while eating
  • Weight Loss
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Testing

We'll determine the right test for you based on your symptoms, medical history and family health history. This can include a series of imaging tests, lung nodule evaluations, pulmonary function tests or a combination of these diagnostics.

Imaging tests

We work with our colleagues in radiology to get a clear picture of your thoracic region. Depending on what we think you might be living with, we may order a(n):

Esophageal motility study

An esophageal motility study checks how the muscles in the esophagus move food down into the stomach. It helps doctors pinpoint if abnormal muscle movements are taking a toll on your body's upper digestive tract. The test works by swallowing a very thin catheter lined with tiny sensors. These sensors measure the squeeze of the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) and lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

Lung nodule evaluations

A lung nodule is an abnormal spot on the lungs. We usually find nodules during an imaging test, like an X-ray or CT scan. Sometimes, a nodule is benign (not serious), and other times, it can indicate a more serious condition.

To pinpoint what kind of nodule you have, we may take a small sample (biopsy) of it for further analysis or perform more imaging tests, like a PET scan.

Pulmonary function test

We can learn a lot about your lungs by observing you inhale and exhale. Pulmonary function tests measure how much air you can breathe in and out and how well the lungs deliver oxygen to your bloodstream. These tests come in handy when looking for conditions like asthma and interstitial lung disease.

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Treatments

We’re always in pursuit of what’s next in healthcare and what’s next for your thoracic health. That’s why we offer the latest in minimally invasive surgical procedures to get your life back on track faster.

Bronchoscopic procedures

The lungs are delicate and can be difficult to reach because of their location. But a bronchoscope — a thin, flexible tube about the size of a pencil eraser — enables us to treat all kinds of pulmonary conditions. This tool allows us to perform a variety of procedures, from washing your airways to reducing the thickness of lung muscles to allow for easier breathing.

Thymectomy

A thymectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that removes the thymus gland, which is located behind the breastbone. A thymectomy is a common treatment for myasthenia gravis, which is an autoimmune disease that weakens your skeletal muscles.

Thoracoscopy + video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS)

A thoracoscopy, also known as video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), is a type of lung volume reduction surgery that treats COPD. It's also a diagnostic tool for confirming if you're living with interstitial lung disease. The good news is that doctors perform this surgery by only making several small incisions in the chest rather than a large, open one. This allows them enough space to insert the tiny digital video camera and surgical instruments needed to perform surgery.

Robotic-assisted surgery

Our thoracic surgeons are experts in the field of robotic-assisted surgery, including the state-of-the-art da Vinci® Surgical System that has been used for over 8.5 million successful surgeries worldwide.

This technology can be used for complex chest, lung, esophagus and stomach procedures. By making just a few small incisions, the surgical system provides a detailed 3D view of the affected area. Having a high-definition view of your insides empowers our doctors with greater precision, control and streamlined communication between the surgery team.

Treating achalasia

We can treat achalasia with endoscopic therapies or surgery. Endoscopic therapies like pneumatic dilation or Botox injections can temporarily improve your symptoms. Meanwhile, surgery can offer a permanent solution for your condition.

Laparoscopic Heller myotomy surgery

Laparoscopic Heller myotomy surgery is a minimally invasive method for opening the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relieve difficulty swallowing. It involves making several small incisions in the abdomen, through which we then insert tiny medical instruments and a camera. These tools guide the doctor as they cut through the muscular layer of the lower end of the esophagus and the upper area of the stomach. This type of surgery is also known as a myotomy.

We can also address gastric reflux during this procedure by using a process called fundoplication. To prevent acid from rising into the esophagus, we wrap a part of the stomach around the esophagus.

Anasuya Gunturi MD, PhD talks with patient at Lowell General Hospital's Women's Wellness Center clinic appointment.
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