Incision of thoracoscopic surgery: can we and should we make it smaller?
Commentary on Thoracic Surgery

Incision of thoracoscopic surgery: can we and should we make it smaller?

Chia-Chuan Liu1, Chao-Yu Liu2

1Division of Thoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center, Taipei, Taiwan; 2Division of Thoracic surgery, Department of Surgery, Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, New Taipei City, Taiwan

Correspondence to: Chia-Chuan Liu. Division of Thoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Koo-Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center, 125 Lih-Der Road, Pei-Tou District, Taipei, Taiwan. Email:

Provenance: This is an Invited Article commissioned by Guest Editor Hyun Koo Kim, MD, PhD (Departments of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Korea University Guro Hospital, Korea University College of Medicine, 97 Guro-donggil, Guro-gu, Seoul 152-703, Korea).

Comment on: Han KN, Kim HK, Lee HJ, et al. A 2-cm single-incision thoracoscopic left upper division segmentectomy. J Vis Surg 2015;1:11.

Received: 18 February 2016; Accepted: 19 February 2016; Published: 11 March 2016.

doi: 10.21037/jovs.2016.03.05

We congratulated Dr. Kim and colleagues for this successful single-port left upper division segmentectomy, and appreciate the efforts they made—not only on minimizing the number of port utilized, but also on shrinkage the wound down to a 2-cm for an anatomical segmentectomy (1).

Single-port thoracoscopic surgery has been proposed for a decade, despite most of them were limited to minor procedures in the beginning, however, it evolved rapidly recently, and been documented to be a feasible procedure in multi-institutional studies (2,3) with comparable perioperative results with multiport technique (4,5). The enthusiasm for single-port surgery was tremendous in Asia, and single-port approach has been adopted as a standard approach of choice for routine operation in some institutes, despite limited benefits as compared with two-port or multiport technique (6,7). With huge patient demands in Asia, the industries including the surgical robot companies had devoted into the development and refinement of the single-port instruments, all these factors enabled the talent surgeons to challenge further on their surgical technique in many different ways.

Firstly, we need to address the limitations of single-port thoracoscopic surgery especially when the wound is small. To achieve this, the operator must choose slimmer instruments or use fewer instruments whenever possible as shown in the video presented by Dr. Han; a 5-mm high definition scope with few instruments were applied, thus inevitably limited the liberal usage of instruments for dissection, traction and exposure. Of note, among all the instruments needed to complete a lobectomy, endostapler might be the most bulky one, which needs a good angle and path to complete a safety stapling. Some of these refined staplers have already come into market and should be idealistic for this purpose.

Secondly, the specimen retrieved from the 2-cm wound needs to be small enough. Specimen from segmentectomy is smaller than that from a lobe for sure, so it is quite reasonable to recommend patients with early small size, peripherally located lung cancer to have smaller wound done by segmentectomy. However, the technique for tri-segmentectomy is basically identical to upper lobe lobectomy with an incomplete minor fissure on the right, and the specimen might not be so small in an emphysematous condition. Furthermore, for some atypical segmentectomy, as apical-posterior of left upper lobe, or even some combined sub-segmentectomy, the demands for knowledge on segmental anatomy and technique are even higher. The frequently encountered anatomic variation, e.g., mediastinal type lingular artery, should be kept in mind in order to avoid mistakes and unnecessary trauma to the patient.

The third, the indications and comparison study do matters. For example, a young female with early ground glass opacities (GGO) lung cancer with lower necessity on radical lymph node dissection might be good for this approach; however, subxiphoid approach with or without needle-scope instruments might have even better cosmetic outcome and avoid the intercostal neuralgia (8).

In summary, minimally invasive surgery does not just mean to minimize the trauma outside, but also on the trauma inside in order to get patient got faster recovery, less suffer, better cosmetic results, but must under the same standard for cancer control. We expect Dr. Kim and his team are able to define the proper indication of this approach, and prove its superiority to the other operation performed with a slightly larger wound or other approaches.




Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


  1. Han KN, Kim HK, Lee HJ, et al. A 2-cm single-incision thoracoscopic left upper division segmentectomy. J Vis Surg 2015;1:11.
  2. Ng CS, Kim HK, Wong RH, et al. Single-Port Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Major Lung Resections: Experience with 150 Consecutive Cases. Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2015. [Epub ahead of print]. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  3. Hsu PK, Lin WC, Chang YC, et al. Multiinstitutional analysis of single-port video-assisted thoracoscopic anatomical resection for primary lung cancer. Ann Thorac Surg 2015;99:1739-44. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  4. Wang BY, Liu CY, Hsu PK, et al. Single-incision versus multiple-incision thoracoscopic lobectomy and segmentectomy: a propensity-matched analysis. Ann Surg 2015;261:793-9. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  5. Shen Y, Wang H, Feng M, et al. Single- versus multiple-port thoracoscopic lobectomy for lung cancer: a propensity-matched study. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2016;49 Suppl 1:i48-i53. [PubMed]
  6. McElnay PJ, Molyneux M, Krishnadas R, et al. Pain and recovery are comparable after either uniportal or multiport video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy: an observation study. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2015;47:912-5. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  7. Liu CY, Cheng CT, Wang BY, et al. Number of Retrieved Lymph Nodes and Postoperative Pain in Single-incision and Multiple-incision Thoracoscopic Surgery. Ann Surg 2015. [Epub ahead of print]. [PubMed]
  8. Liu CC, Wang BY, Shih CS, et al. Subxiphoid single-incision thoracoscopic left upper lobectomy. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2014;148:3250-1. [Crossref] [PubMed]
doi: 10.21037/jovs.2016.03.05
Cite this article as: Liu CC, Liu CY. Incision of thoracoscopic surgery: can we and should we make it smaller? J Vis Surg 2016;2:40.