Thoracoscopic Wedge Resection

Updated: Dec 16, 2015
  • Author: Dharani Kumari Narendra, MD; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Thoracoscopic wedge resection (TWR) is a minimally invasive (non–rib spreading), nonanatomic limited resection of a lung portion. The technique involves a video thoracoscope for access.

The only difference between TWR and open resection in terms of technique is that the former involves minimal invasiveness. Therefore, it is a novel approach but not a new technique.

Thoracoscopic surgery dates back a century but became popular in the 1990s following technological advancements, namely a camera with a built-in light source and innovative endoscopic instruments. [1, 2, 3]

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a safe procedure, even in high-risk patients such as elderly individuals and those with limited cardiopulmonary reserve. [4, 5] It is a parenchymal-sparing procedure that results in earlier recovery than conventional thoracotomy and that is associated with fewer postoperative complications (wound healing, dehiscence, intercostal nerve damage and pain).


Pearls include the following:

  • The only difference between TWR and open resection in terms of technique is that the former is minimally invasive.

  • Limited resection can be safely performed in elderly patients and in those with multiple co-morbidities who are not otherwise a candidates for surgery.

  • Localization of the pathology site is arduous in some patients; prior CT-guided localization is helpful.

  • Experience and good hand-eye coordination are vital for a successful outcome.

  • Overall, TWR is safe and reliable and very useful for lesions at the lung periphery or small lesions at the outer one third of the lung.



TWR is indicated as both a diagnostic and therapeutic intervention in several thoracic diseases. Lesions at the periphery or outer one third of the lung represent the most suitable indications. Common indications are listed below. [6, 7, 8]

Malignant indications are as follows:

  • Early-stage non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC; T1N0M0) and early-stage small-cell lung cancer in patients with limited cardiopulmonary reserve (although lobectomy is preferred)

  • Metastasectomy of pulmonary metastases due to other cancers (renal, breast, colon, melanoma, sarcoma)

  • Ground-glass opacification lesions on chest CT scan in patients with past or present cancer

  • Localization and excisional biopsy of ill-defined or small pulmonary lesions [9]

Infectious indications: TWR is indicated in resection of the following:

  • Tubercular granulomas

  • Aspergilloma

  • Focal organizing pneumonia

The following are other indications for TWR:

  • Diagnosis of interstitial lung disease (ILD)

  • Resection of hamartomas

  • Resection of blebs

  • Resection of pulmonary sclerosing hemangioma

  • Resection of intralobar sequestrated lung

  • Resection of localized bronchiectasis

  • Lung volume reduction surgery in end-stage emphysema



Contraindications to TWR are similar to those associated with VATS, including the following:

  • Hemodynamic instability

  • Inability to tolerate single-lung ventilation

  • Coagulopathy

  • Severe cardiopulmonary failure

  • Prior talc pleurodesis

  • Pleural adhesions

  • Refractory or uncontrollable cough

  • Lung lesion larger than 4 cm

  • N2 lung cancer


Technical Considerations

Experience and good hand-eye coordination are essential for successful outcomes.

Procedure Planning

Preprocedure tests [10]

Depending on pathological condition and comorbidities, outcomes of TWR vary. VATS resection is currently used for most thoracic surgeries, even in patients with limited cardiopulmonary reserve. Preoperative testing and patient selection are crucial to limit complications.

Preoperative testing should include the following:

  • Complete history and physical examination

  • Routine blood test

  • Cardiac evaluation if the patient is symptomatic of or has risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD)

  • Typed and crossed blood arranged for perioperative use

  • Pulmonary function testing (discussed below)

  • Imaging studies (discussed below)

Pulmonary function testing

Since TWR involves limited resection, it may be performed in patients with forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and diffusing capacity of lung for carbon monoxide (DLCO) of less than 80% predicted. However, this necessitates further testing, such as cardiopulmonary exercise testing, split lung function, and predicted postoperative FEV1 and DLCO.

The European Respiratory Society (ERS) guidelines recommend limited resection if the predicted postoperative FEV1 and DLCO exceed 30% or the predicted postoperative peak oxygen consumption (VO2) exceeds 35% or 10 mL/kg/min.

Imaging studies

Chest radiography is used to determine the location, size, and extent of the lesion(s). Most lesions listed above are incidental findings.

Chest CT scanning yields a higher sensitivity and specificity than chest radiography in identifying solitary pulmonary nodules and suspicious lesions. It is also helpful in assessing mediastinal lymph node involvement. It is the best modality for locating lesions in relation to fissures and lung edges, guiding the surgeon in localizing the resection site. Coronal view offers better delineation of lesions to surrounding structures. High-resolution CT (HRCT) scanning is more sensitive than conventional CT scanning. HRCT scanning is used to confirm the presence of emphysema, to quantify the amount of lung involved, and to locate bullous lesions.

Flexible bronchoscopy is essential in patients with lung cancer prior to surgery to exclude visible evidence of endobronchial disease.

Mediastinoscopy and lymph node sampling are required for accurate staging in lung cancer and involvement of nodes. N2 disease mandates open surgery for complete mediastinal lymphadenectomy or neoadjuvant chemotherapy.



Studies have compared lobectomy with wedge resection in NSCLC and have shown that the 5-year survival rate associated with wedge resection was lower than with lobectomy (58% vs 70%). However, rates of non–cancer-related deaths were higher in the wedge resection group than in the lobectomy group. [11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16] In addition, patients undergoing wedge resection were in generally poorer health and had more comorbidities, thus making them ineligible for major lung surgery.

The mean mortality rate is 0%-2%. [17]

The mean operative time for VATS is less for simple resections.

A chest tube is left in postoperatively an average of 2-7 days. However, in some cases, a chest tube in not used or is removed early after VATS in selected patients, as it has shown reduced pain and increased lung function. [14, 15, 16]

The in-hospital length of stay and total cost of the procedure were significantly lower for VATS than for thoracotomy. [11, 12]