Early diagnosis and aggressive surgical drainage are very important for successful treatment of descending necrotizing mediastinitis (DNM). However, the surgical techniques used for DNM treatment remain controversial. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and cervical drainage for the management of DNM. Nine patients diagnosed with DNM were treated from May 2001 to April 2004. The mean age of the patients was 51.1+/-15.0 years. VATS and cervical drainage, including debridement and drainage of the mediastinum and pleura, were performed simultaneously. The mean postoperative hospital stay was 20.6+/-6.6 days. One patient (11%) died of sepsis and renal failure on the 15th postoperative day. Minimal mastication difficulty developed in 2 patients (22%). The mean postoperative follow-up period was 28.7+/-14.7(5 to 52) months. All the survivors are in good health with no recurrences. VATS was safe, effective, and a less invasive surgical option for the management of DNM and should be considered as a good alternative therapeutic modality.