In order to increase the profile of thoracic surgery within the European Union and elsewhere in Europe, further harmonisation in practice and organisation is necessary. This relates not only to training in thoracic surgery, but also to certification of dedicated thoracic surgical units.
Unified databases, to which the majority of thoracic surgeons contribute, should be made available, detailing not only mortality but also specific outcome measures related to morbidity, survival and quality of life. Postgraduate education remains essential to ensure high-quality surgical interventions, as has recently been demonstrated by a study from the Netherlands evaluating completeness of lymph node dissection in dedicated thoracic surgical centres. Thoracic surgeons should be further involved in randomised clinical trials comparing newly introduced treatment modalities, such as stereotactic radiotherapy or radiofrequency ablation, to classical surgical procedures.
As their field is constantly changing, thoracic surgeons should be prepared to adapt to a new environment bringing not only new challenges but also opportunities to further develop and refine this fascinating specialty.
To further stimulate progress in general thoracic surgery, cooperation with respiratory physicians is of utmost importance to improve the outcome for patients. The structure of the European Respiratory Society provides a solid basis for mutual interactions and exchange of knowledge between the different groups of respiratory medicine and general thoracic surgery. Better patient care will be the ultimate result.