A thoracotomy (say "thor-uh-KAW-tuh-mee") is surgery done through
a cut (incision) in the chest wall between the ribs. The doctor is able to
operate inside the chest through this incision. A thoracotomy may be used for
surgery on the lungs, esophagus, trachea, heart, aorta, or diaphragm. The exact
placement of the incision depends on the reason for the surgery. It is usually
across the side of the mid-chest.
In order to spread the ribs far
enough to do the surgery, your doctor may need to cut through a rib or the
breastbone (sternum). When the surgery is finished, the doctor will close the
incision with stitches or staples. If a rib or the breastbone was cut, the
doctor will use wire to hold the pieces of bone together as they heal.
Most people spend 3 to 7 days in the hospital after this type of surgery.
You will be quite sore after chest surgery. You will get medicine to help with
this. Even though you will be sore, it is very important to breathe deeply and
be as active as possible after surgery. This will help your lungs expand again
and help you heal more quickly. It is important not to smoke after
The amount of time you will need to recover at home
depends on the type of surgery you had. You will probably need to take at least
1 to 2 months off work.
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 if you are having problems. It's also a good
idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you
Having surgery can be
stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect and
how to safely prepare for surgery.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of:
May 23, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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