For expert pulmonologists, advanced procedures in medical thoracoscopy are the nonroutine and more complex applications of the method. The main current indications are the treatment of infected pleural space, forceps lung biopsy and sympathectomy.

In parapneumonic effusions and empyema, medical thoracoscopy is as a drainage procedure, intermediate between tube thoracostomy and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), which is efficient, significantly lower in cost and avoids surgical thoracoscopy under general anaesthesia. It is essential that it is performed early in the course of the disease and is particularly advisable for frail patients at high surgical risk.

The efficacy of forceps lung biopsy has been demonstrated in diffuse lung diseases, whereas results in localised lung diseases and chest-wall lesions have been less positive. However, VATS is currently the preferred approach for these indications. The technique still maintains its efficacy for visceral pleura and peripheral lung biopsy, in particular in the presence of pleural effusion and lung disorders.

At the present time, thoracoscopic sympathectomy is minimally invasive and is an accepted intervention for patients with a variety of autonomous nervous system disturbances. Essential hyperhidrosis patients, and well-selected patients with other disorders, can be helped with this procedure, which can also be performed by interventional pulmonologists.


Edited by J.P. Janssen, M. Noppen and K.F. Rabe

Number 5 in this Series


  • Previous articles in this series: No. 1: Bolliger CT, Sutedja TG, Strausz J, Freitag L. Therapeutic bronchoscopy with immediate effect: laser, electrocautery, argon plasma coagulation and stents. Eur Respir J 2006; 27: 1258–1271. No. 2: Vergnon J-M, Huber RM, Moghissi K. Place of cryotherapy, brachytherapy and photodynamic therapy in therapeutic bronchoscopy of lung cancers. Eur Respir J 2006; 28: 200–218. No. 3: Rodriguez-Panadero F, Janssen JP, Astoul P. Thoracoscopy: general overview and place in the diagnosis and management of pleural effusion. Eur Respir J 2006; 28: 409–421. No. 4: Tschopp J-M, Rami-Porta R, Noppen M, Astoul P. Management of spontaneous pneumothorax: state of the art. Eur Respir J 2006; 28: 637–650.

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