Each lung is made up of 2 or 3 sections called lobes. A lobectomy is the surgical removal of one of these sections from the lung.
A lobectomy is used to treat a variety of lung conditions, such as Lung cancerBirth defectsCystsTuberculosisFungal infectionsAbscessesLobar emphysema
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: InfectionBleedingAnesthesia-related problemsCollapsed lung—atelectasisNeed for prolonged mechanical ventilationDamage to nearby organs or structuresChronic pain related to the surgeryDeath
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as: SmokingDrinking
Chronic disease, such as
Your doctor may do the following: Physical examBlood and urine testsPulmonary function testsImaging tests to assess the lungs and surrounding structures: Chest x-rayUltrasoundCT scanMRI scan
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
Before your procedure, you may need to: Follow a special diet.Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.Take antibiotics or other medications.Shower the night before the procedure with a special soap.Arrange to have someone drive you to and from the procedure.Arrange for help at home as you recover.
anesthesia will be given—you will be asleep during the procedure
A lobectomy may be done in one of two ways: Traditional thoracotomy—A large incision will be made. The ribs will be spread. The doctor will locate and remove the lung lobe.Video-assisted thoracic procedure—Several small incisions will be made between your ribs. A tiny camera and special tools will be inserted through the incisions. Your doctor will be able to see the inside of your chest on a nearby monitor. The lung lobe will be located and removed.
If you are having a lobectomy to remove cancer, the doctor will also remove lymph glands in your chest. The glands will be tested for any sign of cancer.
After completing the procedure, your doctor will place tubes in your chest. They will help drain the chest cavity. The incision(s) will be closed with stitches or staples.
You will be taken to a recovery room. You will be given fluids and medications through an IV.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Thoracotomy—about 1-2 weeksVideo-assisted thoracic procedure—2-5 days
You will be asked to cough and walk often. You may be given an incentive spirometer. This is a breathing exercise device that will encourage you to take deep breaths. The chest tube will be removed before you go home.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as: Washing their handsWearing gloves or masksKeeping 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 sameReminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masksNot allowing others to touch your incision
You will have to limit specific activities, but daily walks may be encouraged. Follow instructions on wound care to prevent infection. Your doctor may advise medications to ease discomfort.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision sitePersistent nausea and vomitingPain that you cannot control with the medications you were givenCough, shortness of breath, or chest painCoughing up yellow, green, or bloody mucusPain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
Call for emergency medical services right away for: Sudden chest painSudden shortness of breath
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
A patient’s guide to lung surgery. University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine website. Available at:
http://www.cts.usc.edu/lpg-index.html. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Information for patients undergoing a thorascopic wedge/lobectomy. University of Michigan Department of Surgery website. Available at:
Updated April 03 2012. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Lobectomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/pulmonary/lobectomy_92,P07749. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Surgery for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-small-cell-lung-cancer/treating/surgery.html. Updated May 16, 2016. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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