Groundbreaking History at Mount Sinai

The Mount Sinai Health System’s Department of Thoracic Surgery has long played a pioneering role in surgical treatment of thoracic conditions. About a century ago, we were one of the first to view thoracic surgery as a specialty area. These days, we are pioneers in the area of robotic thoracic surgery.

Development of Open Surgery Procedures

Department founder Howard Lilienthal, MD, was one of first to recognize thoracic surgery as a specialty. As such, we paved the way for important developments in this field. Dr. Lilienthal was among the first to describe the necessity for early operation of lung tumors. He developed the technique of esophagectomy. He went on to perform one of the world’s first in 1921 at Mount Sinai Hospital.

In 1952, Kermit E. Osserman, MD, described the Tensilon test for myasthenia gravis. Hospitals around the globe still use this approach. This laid the groundwork for us to create one of the largest myasthenia gravis clinics in the world. In 1967, Mount Sinai surgeons performed one of the first thymectomy procedures. Paul A. Kirschner, MD, and Allan E. Kark, MD, authored the published report in 1969. Since then, we have become a major referral center for thymectomy. We also lead the way in minimally invasive robotic procedures for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and esophageal cancer.

Mount Sinai surgeon Irving J. Selikoff, MD, has been called the “father of occupational medicine.” He was the first to describe the association between exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma. His research led to creation of the Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The center advocates for health care for all workers. It also works closely with the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program.

We continue to perform groundbreaking research. We are currently involved in developing screenings and therapies for lung cancer, mesothelioma, and esophageal cancer. Raja Flores, MD, Chair of Thoracic Surgery, was one of the first doctors in the world to use robotic surgery to treat thoracic cancers. Dr. Flores is one of the foremost educators of other surgeons, nationally and internationally, about minimally invasive surgery. In addition, Mount Sinai has rare expertise in extrapleural pneumonectomy and pleurectomy/decortication procedures for mesothelioma, esophagectomy procedure for esophageal cancer, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, lobectomy for lung cancer, thymectomy for myasthenia gravis, and sleeve resection for carcinoid tumors.

Pioneering Robotic Thoracic Surgery Program

In addition to developing screenings and therapies, we are also at the forefront of minimally invasive robotic surgery. We have been performing minimally invasive robotic surgery since 2003. As a result of our long experience, our surgeons are some of the most experienced in the world. Some of the key highlights of our program are:

2003 - First to use robotically assisted left ventricular epicardial lead implantation for biventricular pacing

2003 - Performed the first robotic thymectomy for myasthenia gravis in the United States

2003 - Performed the first robot-assisted lobectomy in the United States

2006 - First robotic implantation of brachytherapy seeds to treat lung cancer

2012 - First reverse of thoracic sympathectomy