Rebirth of thoracic surgery

In partnership with the 2nd Department of Surgery and Car diovascular Surgery, the Department of Thoracic Surgery provides surgical care for respiratory diseases in Hokkaido. Our group has remained committed to ʻpatient-centered’ care, with a strong emphasis on ʻminimally invasive surgery’,
particularly thoracoscopic surgery. This includes the comprehensive management of complex patients in coordination with related clinical departments as part of a multidisciplinary approach.

In 2022, the Department of Thoracic Surgery will take a bold step forward to become a fully independent clinical department. With this transition, we look forward to sharing our progress in both clinical care and research.

What We Do

Our department provides surgical treatment for all diseases of the thoracic cavity, including:

Lung disease
  • Primary lung cancer
  • Metastatic lung tumors
  • Benign lung tumors
Mediastinal disease
  • Mediastinal tumors
  • Thymectomy for myasthenia gravis
Pleural disease
  • Pleural tumors
  • Empyema
Chest wall disease
  • Chest wall tumors
  • Chest wall deformities
Our group is facile with a range of surgical approaches, with an emphasis on minimally invasive surgery (MIS), such as thoracoscopic (VATS) and robotic (RATS) techniqu es. We routinely perform technically complex resections and reconstructions, including lung segmentectomy and extended resections with bronchovascular reconstruction.


Members of the department perform both clinical and basic research. Our research goal is to improve the long-term survival of our patients through the development of new therapies.

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Career Pass

After completing your core thoracic surgery training, you will have the opportunity to pursue dedicated research training through graduate school or expand your surgical skills at one of our 19 affiliated hospitals. These affiliates cover the range of smaller, community-based practices and large, high-volume urban centers, capturing the breadth of thoracic surgery in Japan. At the Hokkaido University Hospital Department of Thoracic Surgery, we strive to train thoracic surgeons with a variety of abilities that align with their skills and interests. We work with each trainee to develop an individualized plan to make these goals a reality.

Message from the chair

Always providing the best medical care to patients in Hokkaido.

The Hokkaido University Hospital Department of Thoracic Surgery has recently been established as an independent department. This independence has provided us the opportunity to establish our own traditions and chart our own path. I have been appointed as the first professor of this new Department, and I am humbled by the weight of that responsibility.

The number of lung cancer surgeries has increased with the times, having nearly tripled since I first joined our original department. Together with Hokkaido University Hospital and its 19 affiliates, nearly 2,700 surgeries are performed annually, of which more than 1,400 are lung cancer cases. My first and greatest responsibility, along with those of my colleagues, is to continue delivering the best, cutting-edge medical care to patients in Hokkaido. In addition, as a core hospital for cancer genomic medicine in Hokkaido, we intend to promote the practice of personalized medicine and the development of new treatment methods.

One of the immediate tasks given to our Department is the realization of lung transplantation in Hokkaido. Currently, there are 10 facilities certified for lung transplantation in Japan,but there is not even one in Hokkaido. The key to a successful lung transplant program is cooperation with related departments, and we will work closely with our colleagues to develop a comprehensive transplant team. Achieving this lofty goal will require a large number of passionate, young professionals. I hope that this bright future for our Department excites you as it does me ‒ and that many young people with the same aspirations will knock on the door of our department. We would be excited to have you join us in this journey.

Department of Thoracic Surgery, Hokkaido University Hospital
Professor and Chairman. Tatsuya Kato, MD, PhD


A new department, Hokkaido University Hospital Department of Thoracic Surgery, is born

Due to the reorganization of the clinical departments at Hokkaido University Hospital, we have decided to separate from the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Department and start a new, independent Department of Thoracic Surgery.
Originally, "Thoracic Surgery" at Hokkaido University operated almost independently as a respiratory group since 1924 with the establishment of the Second Department of Surgery. At that time, the Department provided a wide range of surgical treatments for pulmonary tuberculosis. A later reorganization of the graduate school created the Department of Oncology Surgery, consisting of two pillars: Gastroenterological Surgery and Thoracic Surgery. The Thoracic Surgery group subsequently merged with Cardiovascular Surgery to form the “Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery." This was in fact the first time “Thoracic Surgery” appeared in the name of a clinical department at Hokkaido University Hospital.


Lung cancer has been the leading cause of death in Japan since 1995, claiming the lives of ~53,000 men and ~22,000 women annually (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. 2019). Hokkaido unfortunately suffers from a much higher mortality than the national average (age-adjusted mortality 18.1 per 100,000 patient-years versus 14.5 per 100,000 patient-years nationally, for those under 75). This is partially attributable to our high smoking rate, with 32% of men and 15% of women being smokers, in addition to low rates of routine health checks.
Encouraging a healthy lifestyle that modifies risk factors for lung cancer, and detecting cancer at an earlier stage, is the joint responsibility of both the public and private sector.

Hokkaido University Hospital was an early pioneer in Japan in minimally invasive thoracic surgery, known as thoracoscopic surgery or VATS. More recently, we have expanded our capabilities in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) to perform surgery using a single, small incision,
called uniportal VATS, and using robots (RATS). MIS has particular benefits for patients who are elderly or who are high-risk f or surgery.
However, while MIS is generally well-suited for those with earl y-stage lung cancer, we are also experienced in the management of advanced lung cancer, including complex surgical resections and integrated multidisciplinary/multimodality treatment.

The two pillars of our clinical practice and research are "Pursuing more effective surgery" and "Ensuring the safety and efficacy of surgical resection in combination with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy for advanced lung cancer". Despite the growing number of malignant lung tumor surgeries at Hokkaido University Hospital, the high proportion of cases completed using MIS techniques is a feature of our Department of Thoracic Surgery. At Hokkaido University Hospital, the Department of Thoracic Surgery, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Department of Medical Oncology, and Department of Radiation Oncology work closely together through a multidisciplinary tumor board to provide cutting-edge, integrated diagnosis and treatment to every patient. To reduce mortality from lung cancer, multidisciplinary care also includes research cooperation with basic science laboratories and pathology departments. We expect this mutual development will only be further strengthened with the introduction of our new Department of Thoracic Surgery.

Lung transplantation in Hokkaido

A key mission given to our department is the realization of lung transplantation in Hokkaido. The number of patients waiting for lung transplantation registered with the Japan Organ Transplantation (JOT)
Network is increasing year by year, yet less than 90 lung transplants are currently being performed annually in Japan. There are only 10 certified lung transplant facilities in Japan, without a single certified facility to provide service to the vast Hokkaido region. Hokkaido University Hospital has an established track-record for the transplant of other organs,
such as heart, liver, and kidney. Expanding our service to include lung transplantation would allow Hokkaido University Hospital to provide the full breadth of transplant care to residents of Hokkaido. We have made steady preparations, in cooperation with related departments, for accreditation of Hokkaido University Hospital as a designated lung transplant facility. This includes nurturing the next generation of transplant surgeons; our surgeons have completed transplant fellowships nationally and internationally (e.g., Toronto General Hospital) , as well as established on-site facilities for continued technical training . We aim to carry out lung transplantation in Hokkaido in the near future.