Lung surgery (thoracotomy)

Also known as: Thoracotomy, Wedge resection, Segmentectomy, Lobectomy, Pneumonectomy

Surgery to remove all or part of a lung involves making a cut on one side of your chest (thorax) during a procedure called a thoracotomy. Surgery that uses this approach avoids areas in the chest that contain the heart and the spinal cord.

After the cut is made between the ribs, all or part of the lung is removed depending on the location, size, and type of lung cancer that is present.

The types of lung surgery are:

  • Wedge resection (segmentectomy). The surgeon removes a small wedge-shaped piece of lung that contains the lung cancer and a margin of healthy tissue around the cancer. This is likely to be done when your lung function would be decreased too much by removing a lobe of lung (lobectomy). The risk of lung cancer coming back (recurring) is higher with this method.
  • Lobectomy. The right lung has three lobes and the left lung has two lobes. A lobectomy removes the entire lobe of your lung that contains the cancer. Your lungs can function with the lobes that remain.
  • Pneumonectomy. A pneumonectomy removes your entire lung that contains the lung cancer. A pneumonectomy is done only when needed, because it will greatly reduce your overall lung function.

Providence Thoracic Surgery Program provides specialized surgical treatment for disorders of the chest organs, particularly the lungs and esophagus.

Ask An Expert

Ask an Expert: Shortness of breath following lung cancer surgery

Q: "I was diagnosed with lung cancer six months ago and underwent surgery as part of my treatment. Since then I find myself getting short of breath very easily. Will this go away with time?" 

Recommended Resource

Is surgery getting safer? National trends in operative mortality.

BACKGROUND: Although mortality rates for some cardiovascular procedures seem to have declined, it is unclear whether other high-risk procedures are becoming safer over time. STUDY DESIGN: We examined national trends between 1994 and 1999 in operative mortality for 14 high-risk cardiovascular and cancer procedures in the national population of Medicare beneficiaries over age 65. Secular trends were examined using logistic regression adjusting for age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, admission acuity, comorbidities, and hospital volume. RESULTS: Observed mortality rates varied widely across the 14 procedures, from 2% (carotid endarterectomy) to 16% (esophagectomy). 

Patterns of surgical care of lung cancer patients

BACKGROUND: This survey was performed to determine the patterns of surgical care provided patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). METHODS: In 2001, the American College of Surgeons carried out a patient care survey of 729 hospitals to retrieve information of NSCLC patients' history, evaluation, pathology, and surgical treatment. 

Surgeon Specialty and Operative Mortality with Lung Resection.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: We sought to examine the effect of subspecialty training on operative mortality following lung resection. SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: While several different surgical subspecialists perform lung resection for cancer, many believe that this procedure is best performed by board-certified thoracic surgeons. 

Specialists Achieve Better Outcomes than Generalists for Lung Cancer Surgery

Abstract: Objective: A push toward care provided by generalists as opposed to specialists has occurred in the health-care marketplace despite a lack of provider specific outcome data. The objective of this study was to determine whether the outcome of patients undergoing lung cancer surgery is different between general surgeons (GSs) and thoracic surgeons (TSs).

American Cancer Society

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