Prevention and management of intraoperative crisis in VATS and open chest surgery: how to avoid emergency conversion
Video assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) has become a routinely utilized approach to complex procedures of the chest, such as pulmonary resection. It has been associated with decreased postoperative pain, shorter length of stay and lower incidence of complications such as pneumonia. Limitations to this modality may include limited exposure, lack of tactile feedback, and a two-dimensional view of the surgical field. Furthermore, the lack of an open incision may incur technical challenges in preventing and controlling operative misadventures leading to major hemorrhage or other intraoperative emergencies. While these events may occur in the best of circumstances, prevention strategies are the primary means of avoiding these injuries. Unplanned conversions for major intraoperative bleeding or airway injury during general thoracic surgical procedures are relatively rare and often can be avoided with careful preoperative planning, review of relevant imaging, and meticulous surgical technique. When these events occur, a pre-planned, methodical response with initial control of bleeding, assessment of injury, and appropriate repair and/or salvage procedures are necessary to maximize outcomes. The surgeon should be well versed in injury-specific incisions and approaches to maximize adequate exposure and when feasible, allow completion of the index operation. Decisions to continue with a minimally invasive approach should consider the comfort and experience level of the surgeon with these techniques, and the relative benefit gained against the risk incurred to the patient. These algorithms may be expected to shift in the future with increasing sophistication and capabilities of minimally invasive technologies and approaches.