Treatments & Services

The Emory General Thoracic Surgery Center has a reputation for providing thoracic surgical services unparalleled in the region. Our program provides the full range of thoracic procedures, including the most current minimally invasive approaches when appropriate.

As part of Emory University School of Medicine, one of the nation's top institutions for biomedical education, research and patient care, the Emory General Thoracic Surgery Center offers more procedures than any other service in Georgia, including:

• Tracheal surgery
Lung transplantation
Lung volume reduction surgery
• Lobectomy, bilobectomy and pneumonectomy (minimally invasive and open)
• Colon interposition for esophageal replacement
• Resection of advanced pulmonary malignancies
• Extrapleural pneumonectomy for mesothelioma
• Esophagectomy (minimally invasive and open)
Microthoracoscopic sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis
Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS)

Lung Transplantation

Since coming to Emory in 2003, Seth Force, MD, director of the Emory Lung Transplant Program, has overseen a tripling of the number of lung transplants performed per year by the adult lung transplant service. In 2009, the lung program transplanted the greatest number of lungs at Emory in a single year, a 35% increase over 2008, which Dr. Force attributes to improvements in the donor program and the addition of Allan Pickens, MD, and Felix Fernandez, MD, to the transplant team.

Learn More About Lung Transplantation at Emory.

Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS)

One of the many areas in which our physicians excel is video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). Considered a major advancement in the treatment of a variety of benign and malignant diseases of the lung, esophagus and mediastinum (structures of the central chest such as the trachea and thymus), VATS is a minimally invasive surgical method that allows our surgeons to perform procedures through small openings or ports. Specially designed surgical devices are inserted through these ports for removal of diseased tissue, fluid drainage and repair of damaged areas. One of these devices is a small camera called a thoracoscope, which projects images onto a video monitor to help guide the procedure.

Compared with traditional open surgery, patient benefits of VATS include much smaller incisions, less postoperative pain, shorter hospital stays and quicker overall recovery and return to normal activities. We now offer VATS at our Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown and Athens Regional Medical Center locations.

Lung Procedures

• Biopsy for lung disease
• Treatment of pneumothorax
• Biopsy of pulmonary nodules
• Lobectomy for lung cancer
• Bullectomy and lung volume reduction for emphysema
• Stent placement for airway disease

Esophageal Procedures

• Transoral Zenker's diverticulectomy
• Laparoscopic fundoplication for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• BARRX treatment for Barrett's esophagus
• Laparoscopic myotomy for achalasia
• Minimally invasive esophagectomy
• Stent placement for esophageal disease

Mediastinal Procedures

• Biopsy of mediastinal masses
• Thymectomy for myasthenia gravis
• Removal of mediastinal tumors
Sympathectomy for hyperhidrosis and chronic abdominal pain

Pleural Procedures

• Pleural biopsy
• Treatment of pleural effusions (talc pleurodesis and PleurX® catheter)

Emory Hyperhidrosis Center

Directed by Suephy Chen, MD, the Emory Hyperhidrosis Center is a multidisciplinary program staffed by dermatological specialists and general thoracic surgeons that offers minimally invasive surgery as well as medical, non-surgical methods for treating hyperhidrosis. The Center is one of the few programs in the country and the only service in Georgia to offer thoracoscopic sympathectomy, an outpatient procedure that uses small incisions, tiny cameras and specialized surgical instruments.

Surgical Treatment: Thoracoscopic Sympathectomy

Covered by many insurance companies after the failure of non-surgical methods, thoracoscopic sympathectomy typically takes less than 30 minutes, involves no stitches and yields excellent success rates. Dr. Miller and Seth Force, MD, the only surgeons currently performing the procedure in Georgia, have achieved success rates of 99% for the hands, 90% for the armpits and 70% to 85% for the feet.

During the procedure, the surgeon inserts a 3-mm thoracoscope into the chest cavity through a small incision in the armpit. The sympathetic nerve along the ribs in the back of the chest is located, then either divided over the second rib for palmar hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the palms), over the third rib for axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating in the armpits) or over both ribs for patients with both types. The procedure is then duplicated on the other side of the chest.

Lung Volume Reduction Surgery

Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) is a procedure that is used to treat targeted areas of severe emphysema in the upper lobes of the lung. Approximately 30% to 40% of each upper lobe is removed. This allows expansion of the remaining lung and the restoration of the normal contour of the diaphragm (tissue wall that separates the chest and abdominal cavities).

By reducing the lung size, airways are opened. This allows the breathing muscles to return to a more normal and comfortable position, making breathing easier. This surgery has been shown to improve patients' quality of life significantly, as they experience less shortness of breath and generally become less dependent on oxygen therapy.

Emory is the first institution in Georgia to offer lung volume reduction surgery for Medicare patients.