Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas came to prepare more doctors in Costa Rica to perform minimally-invasive thoracic surgery.

Raquel Bolaños had already suffered through three aneurysms — one of which resulting in a stroke — when she went for her annual check up at a clinic in Heredia. During this examination, her doctor detected a mass in her thorax that was affecting her right lung. The mass, which measured a whopping 5 centimeters in diameter, was produced by a severe infection. It was so full of puss that the use of antibiotics at that point was virtually useless.

Such masses are not entirely uncommon, but the minimally-invasive surgery Bolaños’s doctor used to remove the mass was.

The procedure is referred to as “Unilateral Thoroscopy” or “Uniportal Video-Asisted Thorasic Surgery” (VATS). It has origins from least the late 1990s. Unlike similar procedures that often result in opening the rib cage and scars of up to 15 centimeters, VATS offers a far less invasive approach for patients with masses like Bolaños or for those with tumors or cancer. A 10 year study conducted by the Fundeni Clinical Institute revealed that the use of VATS for thymus removal (a relatively small organ in the mid-chest) was the best possible option for patients.

[quote_box_center]There was no mortality, and morbidity consisted of 12 patients (5%). Complete stable remission was achieved in 61% of the patients, and the cumulative probability of achieving complete stable remission was 0.88 at 10 years.[/quote_box_center]

Despite the procedure’s successes, few doctors have been trained to use the method. Costa Rica is lucky in the sense that the small country has not one but two doctors who are already skilled at performing VATS. To date, VATS has been performed 12 times in Costa Rica — a small but notable number that will likely shoot up following this past week’s training.

Bolaños’s surgery was performed at the Calderon Guardia Hospital and was led by Dr. William Guido Guerrero. Guido and Dr. Andrea Mata, the other tica doctor trained to perform VATS, learned years before directly from the surgery’s creator, Dr. Diego Gonzalez Rivas who just came to Costa Rica to train more.

Dr. Gonzalez is a Spaniard who has been working with the Rivera Lung Hospital of Shanghai. A new documentary about Dr. Gonzalez and his team teaching the VATS technique to seven different cities in China will be released this October.

TRAILER 7 DAYS 7 CITIES-TEACHING UNIPORTAL VATS IN CHINA from Diego Gonzalez-Rivas on Vimeo.

For more information about VATS, Dr. Gonzales or the upcoming documentary, visit Video Thoracoscopy.com