Minimally invasive surgical procedures for thymic disease in Asia
Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) procedures for thymic tumors and myasthenia gravis were introduced in Asia in the middle 1990s in at least two regions, Hong Kong and Japan. To overcome difficulties in obtaining a wide view of the anterior mediastinum, several methods for lifting the sternum or anterior chest wall have been presented, mainly by Japanese surgeons. More recently, single port VATS through a subxiphoid incision was also introduced in Japan. The long-term outcome of a VATS extended thymectomy for myasthenia gravis has been shown to be comparable to that of a trans-sternal extended thymectomy, while the long-term outcome of a VATS thymectomy for thymic epithelial tumors remains to be elucidated. Nevertheless, its indication for tumors in an early stage is now widely accepted, and the number of VATS procedures is steadily increasing in Japan and China. Single-port VATS through a subxiphoid incision was developed in Japan and might become accepted as a useful approach in the near future when combined with robot-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. In addition, robot-assisted thoracoscopic surgery for the thymus has also been introduced in some areas in Asia. Although few of those surgical procedures for the thymus have been performed, results obtained thus far indicate that it might be preferable to lung resection. Several novel minimally invasive thymectomy techniques have been invented and developed in Asia, and further advancements in this field by Asian surgeons are anticipated.