Less invasive keyhole surgery is set to replace traditional chest-opening operations that are painful and carry greater risk of subsequent infection, Prince of Wales specialists said yesterday. The announcement came after Chinese University pioneers won a US patent for a device that simulates a beating heart to train surgeons in the keyhole technique. The Chinese University team did not invent the incision technique, but has successfully applied it to a range of lung and heart operations including heart coronary artery bypass, cutting out lung tumours and biopsies for a number of lung conditions. Dean of medicine, Professor Sydney Chung Sheung-chee, said: 'This is the new trend because it causes much less trauma to patients than 'chest-spread' operations. 'Surgeons will have to catch up on this technique or else they will lose out.' The technique involves drilling small holes on the sides of the chest to insert equipment and a camera for the surgeon to see inside. Chief of cardiothoracic surgery, Professor Anthony Yim Ping-chuen, said about half of all lung operations that previously required cutting open the chest were now carried out with the less intrusive technique at the research hospital. 'The same chest operation can now be performed through a few small incisions,' said Professor Yim, who is the editor of the standard reference Minimal Access Cardiothoracic Surgery published this year. 'Patients can go home after a few days and return to work following major chest surgery, rather than staying for more than 10 days and unable to return to work for weeks.' Some 1,500 operations involving the surgical technique have been performed since 1992.