Minimally invasive lung and esophageal surgery: Less invasive, faster healing

Patients with certain lung or esophageal conditions may be candidates for minimally invasive surgery that results in faster recovery, smaller incisions and less pain than conventional open surgery. UW Health's outstanding team of heart and lung surgeons design a plan customized just for you.


Complex surgeries simplified for patients

More and more often, minimally invasive methods are options when you need surgery.

These procedures allow surgeons to operate with less disruption to your body than open surgery. In most cases, they result in less pain and shorter hospital stays. 

At UW Health, we use minimally invasive techniques for many types of surgery. Some of these involve your lungs and esophagus. Our team is highly skilled and experienced. Their expertise is one reason why we received U.S. News and World Report's highest rating for lung cancer surgery.

About the treatment

What is minimally invasive surgery?

Surgery on your lungs or esophagus is complicated. In the past, it’s involved a large incision in the chest or abdomen.

Minimally invasive surgery uses unique approaches, small incisions and special instruments. Rather than a large cut, surgeons make several much smaller incisions. These may be in your chest between your ribs and/or in your abdomen. For some procedures, no incision is needed. The doctor reaches your operation site with instruments passed through your mouth or nose.

A video camera inserted into your body allows doctors to see the problem area by watching a monitor. The surgeon operates with tools passed through other small incisions. This type of surgery often allows patients to resume their regular routines more quickly.

Who can benefit from minimally invasive techniques? 

Minimally invasive lung and esophageal surgery can treat many conditions. Some of the most common we treat include: 

  • Cancer 

  • Esophageal motility disorders 

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

  • Paraesophageal hernia 

  • Severe emphysema 

  • Thymus gland removal (thymectomy) 

Most people who can have open surgery can be considered for minimally invasive surgery. Your doctor can help you decide if it’s right for you.

The treatment process

Less invasive, faster healing

Your surgery will be performed under general anesthesia. The steps involved depend on the condition we’re treating.

In most cases, treatment involves one of the following: 

  • Laparoscopic surgery: Uses a laparoscope to see inside your abdomen. This is a thin tool with a video camera on its tip. Surgeons place the laparoscope through a small incision. They pass their instruments through other incisions.

  • Robotic surgery: Uses a camera and instruments that are part of a surgical robot. Surgeons insert the camera and tools into your body through small incisions. The surgeons direct them from a console using hand controls. This allows for great precision. 

  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS): Uses a tool like a laparoscope. It helps see inside your chest. Surgeons hold the surgical tools outside of your body. They pass them through small incisions between your ribs.

Surgeries we offer at UW Health include: 

  • Bronchoscopic lung volume reduction with PneumRx coils

  • Endoscopic mucosal resection

  • MIS foregut and hiatal surgery, including:

    • Laparoscopic and VATS diaphragm plication

    • Laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery (Nissen, Toupet, Dor fundoplication)

    • Laparoscopic myotomy and fundoplication for achalasia/other esophageal motility disorders

    • Laparoscopic paraesophageal hernia repair

  • Navigational bronchoscopy for lung biopsy

  • Esophagectomy

  • Robotic or VATS thymectomy

  • VATS lobectomy/lung resection

  • VATS lung volume reduction surgery

Meet our team

Depend on our knowledge, skill and experience

Not all surgeons have the expertise to perform minimally invasive surgery. At UW Health, our thoracic surgeons are highly skilled with deep experience. They’re ready to help you.

Our providers


Turn to us

Minimally invasive lung and esophageal surgeries take place at University Hospital.

Innovative treatments

At UW Health, we provide a full range of services for conditions affecting your heart and circulatory system. Here, you’ll find expert preventive care, advanced diagnostic tests and innovative treatments.

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