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Thoracotomy

Risks and Complications

  • Risks of general anesthesia

  • Wound infection

  • Bleeding

  • Inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia)

  • Air leak through the lung wall, requiring a longer hospital stay

  • Worsening of any existing heart problems

  • Blockage of a blood vessel in the leg (deep vein thrombosis) with potential for blood clots in the lung (pulmonary embolism)

During thoracotomy, your surgeon directly views your lungs and the area around them. Surgical procedures may be done, such as removing part or all of a lung.

Preparing for Your Procedure

  • Ask your doctor any questions you have about the procedure.

  • Have blood tests or other tests that your doctor suggests.

  • Ask your doctor about donating your own blood in advance of the procedure.

  • If you smoke, stop immediately.

  • Tell your doctor about any medications you're taking (including aspirin), and ask if you should stop them. Also mention any vitamins, herbs, or other supplements you take.

  • Don't eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure, or as directed.

Side view of human figure with arm raised. A line curves around body from under shoulder blade almost to front of chest.

The Procedure

  • The anesthesiologist can discuss the types of medications you'll be given during the procedure and answer your questions. Once you're asleep, you're positioned comfortably on your side and covered with sterile drapes.

  • Your surgeon then makes an incision across your side. Your rib cage is separated to expose your lungs.

  • The lung to be operated on is deflated. A breathing tube helps your other lung continue working. The deflated lung can then be examined and any needed procedure done. In some cases, part or all of the lung and nearby lymph nodes may be removed.

  • When the procedure is finished, one or more tubes are placed in the chest temporarily to drain fluid and air.

  • The rib cage is then repaired. The muscle and skin are closed with sutures or staples.

 

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