What is a medical thoracoscopy (pleuroscopy)?

Updated: Jul 08, 2021
  • Author: Shannon E Burke, DO; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Medical thoracoscopy or pleuroscopy is a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure utilized by pulmonologists to evaluate, diagnose, and treat plueral pathologies of the lung, mainly pleural effusions. The term thoracoscopy creates confusion because it refers to both the medical and surgical procedures. To avoid confusion, some authors suggest that medical thoracoscopy should be referred to as pleuroscopyThoracoscopy may be used exclusively for the surgical video-assisted thoracoscopic procedure (VATS).  

Medical thoracoscopy was initially performed in 1910 by an internist from Sweden, Hans-Christian Jacobaeus. Jacobaeus was the first to use the term thoracoscopy, which he described as "replacing fluid with air" in order to examine the pleural surfaces of two patients with tuberculous pleurisy. Jacobaeus later developed a therapeutic application for thoracoscopy by using thermocautery to lyse adhesions and create a pneumothorax to treat tuberculosis. [1]

During the 1950s and 1960s, thoracoscopy gained popularity with pulmonologists because of the tuberculosis endemic in the United States. The major indications were for pleural and pulmonary biopsies for diffuse lung disease. However, with the advent of effective chemotherapy for tuberculosis, the need for thoracoscopy decreased. The procedure was later adopted by surgeons after advances in optics, laparoscopic techniques, and video technology. Thoracoscopy grew into the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery that is currently performed by thoracic surgeons.


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