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You are here : > Health > Surgery & Procedures > Lung surgery

Lung surgery

Alternate Names : Thoracotomy, Lung tissue removal, Pneumonectomy, Lobectomy, Lung biopsy, Thoracoscopy, Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, VATS


Lung surgery is surgery to repair or remove lung tissue. Several common lung surgeries are:

  • Lobectomy, to remove one or more lobes of a lung
  • Wedge resection, to remove part of a lobe in a lung
  • Pneumonectomy, to remove a lung.

A thoracotomy is an incision (cut) that a surgeon makes to open the chest wall. You will have a thoracotomy if you have open lung surgery.

See also:

Overview & Description

You will receive general anesthesia before surgery. This will make you unconscious and unable to feel pain. Two common ways to do surgery on your lungs are thoracotomy and video-assisted thorascopic surgery (VATS).

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

  • You will lie on your side on an operating table. Your arm will be placed above your head.
  • Your surgeon will make an incision between 2 ribs. The incision will go from the front of your chest wall to your back. These ribs will be separated. Your lung on this side will be deflated so that air will not move in an out of it during surgery.
  • Your surgeon may not know how much of your lung needs to be removed until your chest is open and your lung can be seen.
  • Your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes in this area.
  • One or more tubes will be placed into your chest area to drain out fluids that build up. These tubes are called chest tubes.
  • After the surgery on your lungs, your surgeon will repair your ribs, muscles, and skin.
  • Open lung surgery may take from 2 to 6 hours.

Video-assisted thorascopic surgery:

  • Your surgeon will make several small incisions over your lungs. An endoscope (a tube with a tiny camera on the end) and other small tools will be passed through these incisions.
  • You will have air pumped into your chest to help your surgeon see the area better.
  • Then, your surgeon may remove part or all of your lung, drain fluid or blood that has built up, or do other procedures.
  • One or more tubes will be placed into your chest to drain out fluids that build up.
Why the Procedure Is Performed

Thoracotomy or video-assisted thorascopic surgery may be done to:

Video-assisted thorascopic surgery can be used to treat many of these conditions. But your surgeon may need to work in a larger area of your chest than this surgery will allow. In that case, you will need open surgery.

Pictures & Images

Pulmonary lobectomy  - series
Pulmonary lobectomy - series

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Before the Procedure

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Review Date : 2/17/2009
Reviewed By : Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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