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Thoracic surgery

Welcome to the Department of Thoracic Surgery at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.  These web pages are designed to provide an overview of our services for prospective patients, their families and carers.  If you are coming into hospital for surgery, they will give you an idea of what will happen during your stay, and how you can help contribute to your recovery.

The department deals with the surgical management of chest disease. Tumours, infections and other disorders of the lungs, the chest wall, the lung lining (the pleura), the mediastinum (middle of the chest) and diaphragm are investigated and treated.  Surgery for heart and oesophageal (gullet) disease takes place elsewhere in the hospital.

We have a particular interest in minimally-invasive surgery (also as video-assisted thoracic surgery, or VATS), including VATS lobectomy. Other areas of interest include endobronchial interventions for severe emphysema, airway stenting and  chest wall surgery.

Our catchment area is large and covers Avon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and north Dorset. We also receive referrals from elsewhere.

In 2010 we adopted the principles of enhanced recovery for all patients undergoing thoracic surgery.  The key to its success is patient involvement, which we believe leads to better outcomes. Implementing enhanced recovery pathways is one of many improvements the NHS is undertaking. Modern surgical and anaesthetic techniques play a part but, more importantly, patients are encouraged to take an active part in their own recovery.  We hope that the better prepared you are the easier and more successful this will be. 

This website does not provide medical advice.  If you think you may require chest surgery, talk to your doctor in the first instance. 


We are based in Bristol Royal Infirmary.  In-patients are looked after on Ward A700 (level 7 of the new Zone A ward block), with high dependency and intensive care provided on ward A600 (ICU) if required.

Children's thoracic surgery takes place at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.  Children are usually looked after on Ward 31, or in the adolescent unit on Ward 35.  This area is specially designed for patients aged 11-16.


Most patients will be referred by a respiratory physician (chest medicine specialist), often through one of the lung cancer multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) which we serve.  Some patients are referred directly by their general practitioner or by other specialists.  Currently, our surgeons routinely attend lung cancer team meetings at hospitals in Yeovil, Taunton, Weston, Bath, North Bristol (Southmead Hospital) and Gloucester, in addition to Bristol Royal Infirmary.

The department also welcomes referrals from hospitals and GPs outside our normal referral area. Please see the contact details section for how to make a referral.

Audit and quality assurance

The department sends data to several internal and external bodies to ensure the quality of our services. 

Data on our surgery for lung cancer is reported to the NHS England Lung Cancer Clinical Outcomes Publication, and is available through the website

Information on lung cancer care in our region is collected by the National Lung Cancer Audit.   You can access this data using the Roy Castle lung cancer smart map here.

We also send annual activity data to the UK Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery, for both our cancer and non-cancer surgery.

Enhanced recovery

This is based on the following principles:

  • Patients are in the best possible condition for surgery
  • Patients have the best possible management during and after their operation
  • Patients experience the best post-operative rehabilitation 

We will talk to you about the operation beforehand, what to expect and how to aid your own recovery afterwards.  For major operations, this will include goals to aim for every day.  These are outlined in the patient diary (see useful information section).

The preoperative assessment team will discuss this with you and provide additional information.

Further information about the national ERAS programme can be obtained here.

Useful information
Leaflets and links
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Glossary of thoracic operations
A brief description of some chest operations.
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