A thoracotomy is used to allow your surgeon to directly view your lung and the area around it.  This technique can allow for a variety of procedures including lobectomy, removal of a mass or a resection.  This is done under general anesthesia and you can expect your procedure to last from 2 - 5 hours.

Anesthesia during thoracotomy

The anesthesiologist will discuss with you prior to the procedure the types of medications they expect to use to ensure you will be asleep and pain free during the surgery.  This type of anesthesia is called general anesthesia and is commonly used for these procedures.  Additionally, you may be given an epidural for pain control during and after the procedure.  An epidural is a thin, flexible tube that is inserted into your lower back that delivers a constant dose of pain medication.  Because this can interfere with muscle control, most people also receive a catheter to help empty your bladder while the epidural is in place.  Occasionally a nerve block is administered during the procedure as well.

The surgical procedure

In order for the surgeon to operate on your lungs, the lung to be operated on is deflated while the remaining lung is breathed with the use of a breathing tube. The deflated lung can then be examined while it is immobilized. When the surgeon has completed his examination and finished with the procedure, chest tube will be placed temporarily to drain fluid and air from your chest. The rib cage is repaired if necessary and the muscle and skin are closed with sutures or staples.

This information is provided by the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.


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