Trans-sternal approach—An incision will be made in the skin over the breastbone. The breastbone will be pulled apart. The thymus gland will then be removed. The incision will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the site.
Transcervical approach—A small incision is made across the lower neck, just above the breastbone. The thymus gland will be removed. The incision will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the site.
Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) or
robot-assisted thoracic procedures
—Several tiny incisions are made in the area. A tiny camera will be inserted through one of the incisions. The camera will send images to a nearby monitor. Robotic arms may be used to do the surgery. Special tools will be passed through the remaining incisions. The thymus will be removed. The incisions will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the site.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1 to 3 hours
Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common in the first 1 to 2 weeks. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is 1 to 3 days. You may need to stay longer if you have problems.
At the Hospital
The staff may give you pain medicines.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
Washing their hands
Wearing gloves or masks
Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
Not letting others touch your incisions
The recovery time depends on the type of surgery. It may take 1 to 2 weeks or as long as 3 months. Physical activity will be limited during this time. You will need to delay return to work.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
Redness, swelling, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision
Pain that you cannot control with medicine
Lasting nausea or vomiting
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Berrih-Aknin S, Le Panse R. Thymectomy in myasthenia gravis: when, why, and how? The Lancet. 2019;18(3):225-226
General information about thymoma and thymic cancers. National Cancer Institute. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/thymoma/patient/thymoma-treatment-pdq. Accessed January 13, 2021.
Myasthenia gravis. EBSCO DynaMed website. https://www.dynamed.com/condition/myasthenia-gravis. Accessed January 13, 2021.
Myasthenia gravis fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/myasthenia_gravis/detail_myasthenia_gravis.htm#84053153. Accessed January 13, 2021.
Last reviewed February 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/13/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.