A pneumonectomy is a type of surgery to remove one of your lungs because of cancer, injury, or some other condition.
You have 2 lungs: a right lung and a left lung. These lungs connect to your mouth through a series of tubes. Through these tubes, the lungs bring oxygen into the body and remove carbon dioxide from the body. Oxygen is needed for all functions of your body. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that the body needs to get rid of. Most people can get by with only 1 lung instead of 2, if needed. Often 1 lung can provide enough oxygen and remove enough carbon dioxide, unless the other lung is damaged.
During a pneumonectomy, the surgeon makes a cut (incision) on the side of your body. The surgeon cuts some muscle and spreads the ribs apart. He or she surgically removes the affected lung. The sac that contained the lung (pleural space) fills up with air. Eventually, fluid takes the place of this air.
In rare cases, healthcare providers may do a pneumonectomy with a VATS procedure instead. This procedure uses a special video camera called a thoracoscope. It is a type of minimally invasive surgery. That means it uses smaller cuts than the traditional open surgery done on the lung. In cancer treatment, most pneumonectomy experts recommend VATS only for people with early-stage tumors that are near the outside of the lung. This complex procedure requires a surgeon with a great deal of technical skill and experience.
Lung cancer is the most common reason for a pneumonectomy. Healthcare providers often try to remove as little as possible of the lung tissue. You might need this procedure if a smaller surgery would not be able to remove all the cancer. Some cancers located near the center of the lung also need this procedure instead of a smaller surgery.
Sometimes a pneumonectomy is also needed for other lung diseases. Some of these include:
Many people who have this surgery do very well. But it is a fairly high-risk surgery. Some possible complications are:
Your recovery will probably take weeks or even months. If the surgeon spread your ribs to get to the lung, the area near the incision will hurt for some time after surgery. Your overall activity may be limited for 1 to 2 months. If you have emphysema or chronic bronchitis (common diseases among smokers), you might become more short of breath with certain activities.
Your age, any other health problems, and other factors will help determine your risk for complications. Before your surgery, ask your healthcare provider about your specific risks.
Ask your healthcare provider about what you need to do to get ready for your pneumonectomy. In general:
You may also need 1 or more of the following tests:
Ask your healthcare provider about what to expect during your pneumonectomy. The following is a general description of the most common approach. This procedure may differ if your healthcare provider is using minimally invasive surgery. In general:
Ask your healthcare provider about what to expect. In general:
After you leave the hospital:
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: