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lung surgery

What DIAGNOSTIC TESTS are used in lung problems?

Often the initial test is a chest x-ray. This may be further evaluated with a CT scan and if malignancy is suspected a PET scan. A pulmonologist will often recommend bronchoscopy to look at the airways and/or a needle biopsy done in radiology to directly sample the abnormality. To undergo surgery it may be necessary to evaluate lung function with arterial blood gases and/or pulmonary function testing. Furthermore the patient may need clearance from his family doctor and a cardiologist.


The general term for an incison in the chest. It implies an open procedure where the lung and chest organs can be viewed and operated upon directly. The incision may be under the armpit (axillary) or on the patient's side under the shoulder blade (postero-lateral). In current usage the word thoracotomy is contrasted to thoracoscopy here the lung is viewed and manipulated through a video scope.


The term for operating on the chest with video visualization, literally to look inside the chest.  (A camera is inserted between the ribs and the lung, and the chest wall, diaphragm, pericardium and vessels are examined.) Through one inch ports in the chest wall, instruments may be used to accomplish various surgical procedures. The procedure is often used to evaluate patients with fluid between the chest wall and lung (pleural effusion). The images are seen on a monitor and a determination between benign and malignant processes is possible. A drain is usually left in place. The hospital stay is 1 to 3 days.


The treatment for spontaneous pneumothorax. The thorocoscopic camera is used to determine the location of the bleb (bubble) on the lung surface, usually at the top of the lung. Specially designed staples are used to close the leak and remove a small portion of the lung apex. A chest tube is left in place. The procedure is 99% effective in curing spontaneous pneumothorax. The hospital stay is 2 or 3 days.

What is a LUNG BIOPSY?

An operation to remove a small portion of the lung for microscopic examination. This may be done “open” through a 2” incision between the ribs with a stapler, or with a thoracoscopic camera. The procedure is done to diagnose interstitial lung disease or to rule out infection or malignancy. The hospital stay depends on the underlying diagnosis.

What is VATS?

An acronym for Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery. This is a combination of a small incision and video camera surgery and is held to be less invasive. It is appropriate for some lung procedures.

What is a LOBECTOMY?

The term for removal of one of the 5 lobes of the lung. It usually involves a thoracotomy incision and dissection of the blood vessels and airways to separate the lobe and remove it. The usual reason to undertake a lobectomy is lung cancer, although it may be appropriate for certain infections or other disease processes.

How long does the surgery last?

A lobectomy is a 2 to 3 hour procedure.

What is the recovery?

Typically, the patient will spend a couple hours in the recovery room and then is transferred to the surgery floor. Selected patients stay overnight in the ICU. The hospital stay is 4 to 7 days. Complete recovery is in 4 to 6 weeks.

How is my pain controlled?

Most patients will have an epidural catheter placed in the back to continually infuse narcotics and this works well to minimize pain. An alternate method is a PCA (patient controlled anesthesia) whereby the patient has a button to infuse narcotics intraveneously with a limit on the hourly dose. After a few days these methods are replaced by oral pain medications.

Why do I need a lobectomy?

Any disease process in the lung that is limited to one section of the lung might be best removed with a lobectomy. Most commonly this is a lung cancer although an infection or lung abcess might also reqiure this operation. For cancer surgery the operation also helps to determine the spread of the tumor by direct examination of the surrounding structures and by removing lymph nodes for examination.

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CVT Surgical Center
7777 Hennessy Ave. Suite 1008 · Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70808
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