Thoracotomy: Your Home Recovery
For the first several weeks after your surgery, you'll be gaining a little more energy and strength each day. Breathing may be uncomfortable at first, and you may be short of breath. Take things slowly, and rest when you get tired. Your doctor or nurse can talk to you about what you can and can't do as you recover.
Caring for Your Incision
Your doctor will tell you when it's OK to shower. When you shower, wash your incision gently with warm (not hot) water and mild soap. Bruising, itchiness, soreness, and numbness at your incision site are normal for several weeks after surgery.
Take your pain medications regularly as your doctor instructs — don't wait until the pain gets bad before you take them. In addition to medication for pain, your doctor may prescribe other medications. Oxygen may also be prescribed.
When to Call Your Doctor
Draining or very red incision
Sudden, severe shortness of breath
Sudden, sharp chest pain
Fever over 101°F (38.3°C)
Rapid heartbeat or "fluttering" in your chest
Easing into Activity
For 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery, avoid any activity that might put stress on your healing incisions, such as heavy lifting or yard work. Do start walking, though, to improve your circulation, lung capacity, and strength. Taking pain medications before activity will help make breathing more comfortable. You'll probably feel short of breath for several weeks. This is normal and will improve with time. As you begin to feel better, you can gradually add more strenuous activities. Ask your doctor how long to wait before returning to sexual relations, driving, and work.