Mediastinal Tumor Resection
The mediastinum is surrounded by the breastbone in front, the spine in back, and the lungs on each side. Mediastinal tumor resection removes tumors in this area of the chest cavity.
Regions of the Lung
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Reasons for Procedure TOP
Cancerous tumors must be removed to prevent local tissue damage and the spread of cancer. Without removal or treatment, the cancer could spread to other areas of the body. The cancer could also start to compress organs in the chest, such as the heart, lungs, esophagus, or spinal cord.
People who have this surgery often have a better prognosis than those who receive either
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, such as:
- Damage to the areas surrounding the tumor, including the heart, lungs, and spinal cord
- Fluid collecting between the lung tissue lining and the wall of the chest cavity
- Lung collapse
- Drainage, infection, or bleeding
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
Before the surgery, your doctor may take images of structures inside your body using:
Leading up to the surgery:
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
- Eat a light meal the night before the surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
- Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital.
- Arrange for help at home.
Description of the Procedure TOP
To remove the tumor, the doctor will make one large, central incision in the chest, an incision between the ribs, or several small incisions. If several small incisions are made, a camera will be inserted into one incision. The camera will allow the doctor to view the area via monitor. Through the other incisions, surgical tools will be inserted.
Tubes may be inserted into your chest. These tubes will help to drain fluid and air from the chest cavity. The incisions will be closed with staples or stitches.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
The breathing tube will be removed. You will be monitored closely for any complications from the procedure.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 1-4 hours depending on the type of surgery
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
This surgery is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 4 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
You will be given a
clear liquid diet.
You will be instructed to practice deep breathing and coughing to help your lungs recover.
Any chest tubes will be removed before you go home.
When you are home:
- Avoid lifting objects heavier than 5 pounds.
- Do not to drive for 4-6 weeks.
- Follow instructions your doctor's instructions.
After you recover from surgery, you may need chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
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
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
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you've been given
- Cough, difficulty breathing, or chest pain
- Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
- New or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Flores RM. Surgical management of primary mediastinal germ cell tumors. The Cardiothoracic Surgery Network website. Available at:
https://www.ctsnet.org/article/surgical-management-primary-mediastinal-germ-cell-tumors. Published January 25, 2010. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Germ cell tumors. Brigham and Women's Hospital website. Available at: https://www.brighamandwomens.org/lung-center/diseases-and-conditions/germ-cell-tumors. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Liu HP, Yim AP, et al. Thorascopic removal of intrathoracic neurogenic tumors: a combined Chinese experience.
6/3/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Am J Med.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Alan Drabkin, MD
Last Updated: 1/23/2014