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Thoracoscopy: What to Expect at Home

The chest and side, showing the lungs, pleural space, and incision sites for thoracoscopy

Your Recovery

Thoracoscopy is a procedure your doctor used to find or treat some problems in your chest. It may have been used to take a sample of tissue for a biopsy. Or maybe the doctor used it to check for problems such as fluid collecting around your lungs (pleural effusion). It also may have been used to drain extra fluid around your lungs and do a procedure to keep the fluid from coming back.

Your chest may be sore where the doctor made the incisions. This usually gets better after 2 to 3 weeks. You may go home with a tube in the incision to drain fluid.

You will have stitches or staples in the incisions. Your doctor will take these out 1 to 2 weeks after your procedure.

How long it will take to recover depends on what was done during the procedure. But you probably will need to take it easy at home for at least 1 to 2 weeks.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • Be active. Walking is a good choice.
  • Allow your body to heal. Don't move quickly or lift anything heavy until you are feeling better.
  • Ask your doctor when it is safe to you to drive or fly.
  • Many people are able to return to work within 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your procedure. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking this medicine again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on the incisions, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.
  • You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness or swelling in your leg.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are coughing more deeply or more often.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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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.