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A thoracotomy is a surgical procedure to open your chest to gain access to your lungs, heart, or esophagus. It is usually carried out to diagnose or treat an illness, such as to treat lung cancer, inflate a collapsed lung, repair the heart, remove a cyst in the chest, remove part of the chest walls, repair the diaphragm, or take out a tumor, lymph node, or blood clot.
Before thoracotomy, you are given a general anesthetic. The surgery starts by making an incision on your left or right side below your shoulder blade and between your ribs, and then your surgeon divides your muscles and removes or spread the ribs to reach your lungs or other parts of your chest. When your surgeon has completed their work, tubs are placed to drain fluid, blood, or air that may have collected in your chest, the ribs are repaired, and the wound is closed with sutures.
Thoracotomy is a major operation, so you may have to stay in the hospital for four to seven days. Then, when you are discharged from the hospital, you may need to stay for 7 to 14 more days because you will need to attend follow-up checkups where your surgeon monitors your progress and removes the stitches.
It may take around 4 to 6 weeks until you can resume your normal routine, including work if your job is not physically demanding. Make sure to avoid any vigorous activities, such as intense exercises and heavy lifting for 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.
After your surgery, is it very important to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein and fiber, as well as drinking a sufficient amount of liquids, You can ease back into light physical activities such as going for walks as soon as you can. You may want to schedule a follow-up appointment with your local doctor to check the results of your surgery.
The success rate of thoracotomy is high, but the outlook depends on the reason you had the procedure. The possible side effects and complications of thoracotomy include infection, bleeding, pneumonia, air leaking from your lungs, and deep vein thrombosis that can cause a blockage.
If your condition can be treated with a simpler procedure, you can always opt for alternatives, including mini-thoracotomy and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). These alternatives are more minimally invasive and thought to be safer than thoracotomy.
Before a thoracotomy, your doctor may not be able to confirm their diagnosis or you may have dangerous problems in your chest that cause painful symptoms. After the procedure, your doctor will know for sure your condition and discuss the best treatment option for you. If your surgery is done to treat an illness, the symptoms of the illness may be significantly reduced or you may no longer feel any symptoms at all.
Whilst the information presented here has been accurately sourced and verified by a medical professional for its accuracy, it is still advised to consult with your doctor before pursuing a medical treatment at one of the listed medical providers. This content was last updated on 28/11/2020.