A thoracoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses an endoscope to examine a patient's lungs and the area around the lungs, according to the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. These areas include the pleurae, which are the membranes that encase the lungs, according to MedicineNet, and the mediastinum, which is the middle of the chest.
The mediastinum houses the heart, the thymus gland, the esophagus, part of the windpipe and lymph nodes, notes the USC Keck School of Medicine.
The surgical team gives the patient general anesthesia before the thoracoscopy, claims the USC Keck School of Medicine. Then, the patient is positioned on his side, and the surgeon makes a few small incisions in the thorax. He inserts an endoscope, which is a lighted probe with a camera, into one of the incisions. Specialized operating instruments are inserted into the other incisions. When the procedure is over, the surgeon may insert a drain to remove excess fluid from the surgical site and closes up the incisions with sutures or surgical staples.
Thoracoscopy is used to perform biopsies of the pleura and to diagnose pleural effusions that can't be diagnosed by aspirating pleural fluid with a needle, explains UC San Diego School of Medicine.