Each lung is made up of 2 or 3 sections called lobes. A lobectomy is the removal of one of these lobes. The procedure may be done through an opening in the chest wall or through small incisions and special tools.
Reasons for Procedure
A lobectomy is used to treat a variety of lung conditions, such as
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Anesthesia-related problems
- Collapsed lung— atelectasis
- Need for prolonged mechanical ventilation
- Blood clots in the legs (DVT) that may travel to the lungs
- Damage to nearby organs or structures
- Chronic pain related to the surgery
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- Blood and urine tests
- Lung function tests
- Imaging tests to assess the lungs and surrounding structures:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 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
A lobectomy may be done in 1 of 2 ways:
- Traditional thoracotomy—A large incision will be made. The ribs will be spread. The lung lobe will be located and removed.
- Video-assisted thoracic procedure (VATS)—Several small incisions will be made between your ribs. A tiny camera and special tools will be inserted through the incisions. The inside of your chest will be viewed on a nearby monitor. The lung lobe will be located and removed. May have fewer complications than open.
- Robot-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (RATS)—Similar to VATS but done with robot arms. The robot may help do smoother small movements.
Tubes will be placed in your chest. They will help drain the chest cavity. The incision(s) will be closed with stitches or staples.
Immediately After Procedure
You will be taken to a recovery room. You will be given fluids and medications through an IV.
How Long Will It Take?
1 to 4 hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay
- Thoracotomy—about 1 to 2 weeks
- Video-assisted thoracic procedure—2 to 5 days
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.
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
You will have to limit specific activities, but daily walks may be encouraged. Follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
- 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 were 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 emergency medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Information for patients undergoing a thorascopic wedge/lobectomy. University of Michigan Department of Surgery website. Available at: http://surgery.med.umich.edu/thoracic/patient/discharge_followup/teaching/tscope_lobe.shtml. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Lobectomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/pulmonary/lobectomy_92,P07749. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Management of resectable non-small cell lung cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906057/Management-of-resectable-non-small-cell-lung-cancer. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Small cell lung cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115654/Small-cell-lung-cancer. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Surgery for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-small-cell-lung-cancer/treating/surgery.html. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardNicole S. Meregian, PA Last Updated: 1/26/2021