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Thoracic (Lung) Surgery

Lung surgery is surgery done to repair or remove lung tissue. There are many common lung surgeries, including:

  • Biopsy of an unknown growth
  • Lobectomy, to remove one or more lobes of a lung
  • Pneumonectomy, to remove a lung
  • Surgery to prevent the buildup or return of fluid to the chest (pleurodesis)
  • Surgery to remove an infection in the chest cavity
  • Surgery to remove blood in the chest cavity, particularly after trauma
  • Surgery to remove small balloon-like tissues that cause lung collapse
  • Wedge resection, to remove part of a lobe in a lung

How does it work?

Patients will be given general anesthesia before surgery. There are two common ways to do surgery on the lungs – thoracotomy and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).

Lung surgery using a thoracotomy is called open surgery. In this surgery:

  • Patients lie on their side on an operating table with their arm will placed above their head.
  • The surgeon will make a surgical cut between two ribs. The cut will go from the front of the chest wall to the back, passing just underneath the armpit. These ribs will be separated or a rib may be removed.
  • The lung on this side will be deflated so that air will not move in and out of it during surgery. This makes it easier for the surgeon to operate on the lung.
  • The surgeon may not know how much of your lung needs to be removed until the chest is open and the lung can be seen.
  • The surgeon may also remove lymph nodes in this area.
  • After surgery, one or more drainage tubes will be placed into the chest area to drain out fluids that build up. These tubes are called chest tubes.
  • After the surgery, the surgeon will close the ribs, muscles, and skin with sutures.
  • Open lung surgery may take from 2 to 6 hours.

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery:

  • The surgeon will make several small surgical cuts over the chest wall. A videoscope and other small tools will be passed through these cuts.
  • Then, the surgeon may remove part or all of the lung, drain fluid or blood that has built up, or do other procedures.
  • One or more tubes will be placed into the chest to drain fluids that build up.
  • This procedure leads to much less pain and a faster recovery than open lung surgery.

Confident in the Fight Against Lung Cancer

with Joseph Costic, DO, FACOS

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