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Lung Resection: Before Your Surgery

What is a lung resection?

Lung resection is surgery to remove part or all of your lung. It is used to treat a damaged or diseased lung.

To do the surgery, the doctor makes a cut in your chest wall. This cut is called an incision. If the doctor can't spread your ribs enough to do the surgery, then he or she may also make a cut through a rib or your breastbone (sternum). After the doctor removes the diseased parts of your lung, he or she closes the incision with stitches or staples. If the breastbone was cut, the doctor uses wire to hold the pieces of bone together.

Most people spend 3 to 7 days in the hospital. After surgery, your chest will feel very sore. But you will get pain medicine to help with this. The medicine will allow you to breathe deeply and be as active as possible. Both of these things will help you heal more quickly. You will probably need to take at least 1 to 2 months off from work.

It's important not to smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 2 to 4 hours.
  • You may stay in the ICU for 1 or 2 days.
  • You will have a tube down your throat during surgery. The tube will help you breathe. It will probably be removed before you are fully awake.
  • You will probably have one or two tubes coming out of your chest. These tubes drain fluid and air so that your lungs can expand again after surgery. They will be removed before you go home.
  • You may have an epidural catheter. This is a tiny tube that puts pain medicine directly into the area in your back around your spinal cord. It helps prevent pain after surgery.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.