Anesthetic (r)evolution from the conventional concept to the minimally invasive techniques in thoracic surgery-narrative review

J Thorac Dis. 2022 Aug;14(8):3045-3060. doi: 10.21037/jtd-22-80.


Background and objective: Thanks to the growing experience with the non-intubated anesthetic and surgical techniques, most pulmonary resections can now be performed by using minimally invasive techniques. The conventional method, i.e., surgery on the intubated, ventilated patient under general anesthesia with one-lung ventilation (OLV) was considered necessary for the major thoracoscopic lung resections for all patients. An adequate analgesic approach (regional or epidural anesthesia) allows video-assisted thoracoscopy (VATS) to be performed in anesthetized patients and thus the potential adverse effects related to general anesthesia and mechanical OLV can be minimized.

Methods: Multiple medical literature databases (PubMed, Google Scholar, Scopus) were searched, using the terms [(non-intubated) OR (nonintubated) OR (tubeless) OR (awake)] AND [(thoracoscopic surgery)] from 2004 to December 2021. Thirty hundred and six scientific papers were collected. The editorials, commentaries, letters, and papers were excluded, that focus on other than the non-intubated (aka awake or tubeless) VATS technique, as well as the full text scientific papers available in languages other than English.

Key content and findings: After reviewing the literature, we identified "schools" with different techniques but with very similar results. Most of the differences were in the anesthetic technique, oxygenation and analgesia, however, the immunological results, and the qualitative parameters (inpatient hospital care days, complication rate, mortality) of the perioperative period showed great similarity, in addition, all three schools identified the same risk factors (hypoxia, hypercapnia, airway safety). The combination of spontaneous ventilation with double lumen tube intubation, called VATS-spontaneous ventilation with intubation (SVI) method seems to be suitable for reducing these risk factors, which may serve as an alternative for patients not suitable for the non-intubated technique in the near future.

Conclusions: Based on the results, non-intubated thoracic surgery appears to be an increasingly widespread, safe procedure, that will be available to a wider range of patients as experience expands and by the implication of the constantly evolving new processes.

Keywords: Intubation; double-lumen tube; non-intubated video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (NIVATS); spontaneous breathing (SB).

Publication types

  • Review