OBJECTIVE To evaluate the indication and safety of video assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) for chest tumors. METHODS Data of 144 consecutive patients receiving VATS between January and November 2009 in Cancer hospital Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences were retrospectively reviewed. RESULTS There was no conversion to open thoracotomy. Overall morbidity rate was 2.08% (3/144) and mortality rate was 0.69% (1/144). There were no significant differences for operative time, number of nodal dissection, morbidity rate, mortality rate, overall hospitalization and postoperative length of stay between VATS lobectomy group and open thoracotomy (OT) lobectomy group. Chest tube duration was shorter in the VATS lobectomy group than OT lobectomy group and more early-stage lung cancer patients were found in VATS group. There were no significant differences for number of nodal dissection, chest tube duration, morbidity rate, mortality rate, and postoperative length of stay between VATS lung wedge resection group and OT lung wedge resection group. Operative time and overall hospitalization were shorter in the VATS wedge resection group than OT wedge resection group. CONCLUSION Morbidity and mortality rate of VATS were acceptable. VATS lobectomy can be used as an alternative surgical technique for early-stage lung cancer. For lung wedge resection, VATS was superior than OT.