Pulmonary Lobectomy

(Removal of a Lung Lobe)


Each lung is made up of 2 or 3 sections called lobes. A lobectomy is the surgical removal of one of these sections from the lung.

Reasons for Procedure    TOP

A lobectomy is used to treat a variety of lung conditions, such as

Lung Cancer

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Possible Complications    TOP

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Anesthesia-related problems
  • Collapsed lung—atelectasis
  • Need for prolonged mechanical ventilation
  • Damage to nearby organs or structures
  • Chronic pain related to the surgery
  • Death

Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:

Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.

Before your procedure, you may need to:

  • Follow a special diet.
  • Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Take antibiotics or other medications.
  • Shower the night before the procedure with a special soap.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you to and from the procedure.
  • Arrange for help at home as you recover.


General anesthesia will be given—you will be asleep during the procedure

Description of Procedure    TOP

A lobectomy may be done in one of two ways:

  • Traditional thoracotomy—A large incision will be made. The ribs will be spread. The doctor will locate and remove the lung lobe.
  • Video-assisted thoracic procedure—Several small incisions will be made between your ribs. A tiny camera and special tools will be inserted through the incisions. Your doctor will be able to see the inside of your chest on a nearby monitor. The lung lobe will be located and removed.

If you are having a lobectomy to remove cancer, the doctor will also remove lymph glands in your chest. The glands will be tested for any sign of cancer.

After completing the procedure, your doctor will place tubes in your chest. They will help drain the chest cavity. The incision(s) will be closed with stitches or staples.

Immediately After Procedure    TOP

You will be taken to a recovery room. You will be given fluids and medications through an IV.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

1-4 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?    TOP

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Average Hospital Stay    TOP

  • Thoracotomy—about 1-2 weeks
  • Video-assisted thoracic procedure—2-5 days

Post-procedure Care    TOP

At the Hospital

You will be asked to cough and walk often. You may be given an incentive spirometer. This is a breathing exercise device that will encourage you to take deep breaths. The chest tube will be removed before you go home.

Preventing Infection

During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
  • Not allowing others to touch your incision

At Home

You will have to limit specific activities, but daily walks may be encouraged. Follow instructions on wound care to prevent infection. Your doctor may advise medications to ease discomfort.

Call Your Doctor    TOP

It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you've been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Coughing up yellow, green, or bloody mucus
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs

Call for emergency medical services right away for:

  • Sudden chest pain
  • Sudden shortness of breath

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute


Canadian Cancer Society


Information for patients undergoing a thorascopic wedge/lobectomy. University of Michigan Department of Surgery website. Available at:
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Accessed May 23, 2013.
Lobectomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed May 23, 2013.
Non-small cell lung cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 14, 2013. Accessed May 23, 2013.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 1/23/2014

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