Thoracic Surgery

The Thoracic Surgery Service at The George Washington University Hospital offers diagnosis and surgical treatment for the organs inside the chest, including the lungs, esophagus, diaphragm and chest wall. Cardiac surgery is provided by The George Washington University Cardiovascular Center. Surgeons at The Thoracic Surgery Service use the da Vinci® Surgical System to perform many thoracic procedures with minimally invasive, robotic techniques.

Benefits of the da Vinci Surgical System

The da Vinci Surgical System’s binocular robotic camera provides three-dimensional visualization, while the system’s robotic arm gives surgeons the access and control they need to successfully perform a number of minimally invasive thoracic surgical procedures. By using the da Vinci system, surgeons are able to avoid making a large incision in the chest, similar to that required for open-heart surgery. Because there are several small incisions, instead of a single large opening in the chest, patients usually realize a number of benefits that include:

  • Shorter hospital stays.
  • Less pain.
  • Quicker recoveries.
  • Reduced chance of infection and other complications.
  • A quicker return to normal activity.
  • Less scarring.
  • Decreased inflammation of body tissue.
  • Less bleeding and reduced need for blood transfusion.

Among the robotic procedures offered at GW Hospital are:

  • Robotic Lobectomy for Lung Cancer Lobectomy, or the surgical removal of a cancerous lobe in the lung, is the standard treatment of early-stage non small-cell lung cancer. Until recently, this procedure required a large incision that could cause the patient significant pain and a long recovery period.
  • Robotic Esophagectomy for Esophageal Cancer There are approximately 16,5000 new cases of cancer of the esophagus diagnosed in the United States every year. Some patients may require surgical removal of the esophagus as part of their treatment. In the past, surgery meant large incisions to remove the cancerous esophagus, long painful recoveries and an extended period of time in which patients were not able to eat.
  • Robotic Resection of Mediastinal Masses The mediastinum is the portion of the chest cavity between the lungs. When tumors or other masses grow in the mediastinum—such as thymoma or lymphoma—surgeons can remove the masses robotically through small incisions instead of the large incisions required with traditional open surgery.
  • Robotic Thymectomy for Myasthenia Gravis The removal of the thymus gland is often a recommended treatment for patients who have myasthenia gravis, which is a neuromuscular disorder that can cause muscle weakness. Traditional surgery involves a large, length-wise incision along the breastbone, similar to that used for open-heart surgery.
  • Robotic Esophageal Myotomy for Achalasia Achalasia is a disorder that affects the ability of the esophagus to move food toward the stomach. Left untreated, achalasia can result in the widening of the esophagus to the point at which it begins to function as a reservoir instead of a conduit. That can lead to infection, obstruction and even the development of esophageal cancer. Surgeons can correct this condition using a procedure called myotomy, in which the esophageal muscle is cut and repositioned.
  • Robotic Resection of First Rib for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome When a patient has thoracic outlet syndrome—a rare condition in which patients experience pain in the neck and shoulder, numbness and tingling in the fingers and a weak grip—removing a section of the first rib to relieve pressure from nerves and/or blood vessels can often correct the condition.
  • Robotic Laparoscopic Belsey Fundoplasty For Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease The most common disease in humans, GERD affects nearly 20 percent of Americans. Nearly everyone experiences GERD from time to time, but it can lead to injury of the esophagus and upper digestive track, as well as esophageal cancer, if it is experienced on an ongoing basis. Belsey fundoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical technique that can correct problems with the esophagus that lead to GERD.
Watch Dr. Farzad Najam discuss robotic thoracic surgery.

Physician Profiles

Keith Mortman, MD, FACS, FCCP

Keith Mortman, MD, FACS, FCCP is board-certified in cardiothoracic surgery. He is the Director of Thoracic Surgery and an Associate Professor of Surgery with The George Washington University...

Farzad Najam, MD

Farzad Najam, MD, serves as the associate director of cardiac surgery and assistant clinical professor of cardiac surgery at The George Washington University Hospital. He is board certified in...