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After Thoracic Surgery

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Lung Surgery

Following lung surgery, you will probably recover in the Intensive Care Unit for a day or two, before moving to a regular hospital room. In most cases, a mechanical ventilator will help you breathe, either on a temporary or permanent basis. After most lung surgery, a chest tube will drain fluid to help prevent a collapsed lung. Other tubes may be used to supply and drain fluids to and from other parts of your body.

A respiratory therapist will visit you to teach you deep breathing exercises. It is important that you perform these exercises in order to re-expand the lung and lower the risk of pneumonia or other infections.

Opening the chest cavity means cutting through skin, muscle, nerves, and sometimes bone. It is a major procedure that often involves a hospital stay of five to ten days, depending on the particular surgery. When it's time to return home, you will be armed with information about recovering safely at home.

The typical recovery period for a lobectomy is 4-12 weeks following surgery.

Recovery from pneumonectomy is usually a slow process, with the remaining lung gradually taking on the work of the lung that has been removed. You may gradually resume normal non-strenuous activities. If you do not experience postoperative problems, you may be well enough within 8 weeks to return to a job that is not physically demanding; however, 60% of all pneumonectomy patients continue to struggle with shortness of breath 6 months after having surgery.

If your lungs have been weakened by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may experience long-term shortness of breath as a result of this surgery.

If you develop a fever, chest pain, persistent cough, or shortness of breath, or if your incision bleeds or becomes inflamed, notify the doctor immediately.

After Esophagectomy

You will likely have a tube that enters through your nose and reaches into your stomach to drain accumulating digestive juices. After tests confirm that there are no leaks, the tube is removed, usually 5 days after the surgery, and you can begin taking fluids by mouth. Until your digestive system begins functioning again, you will be given nutrition through a tube directly into your intestine, or through your veins.

You will be encouraged to return to normal activities, including work and light lifting, as soon as you feel comfortable. After a month, you may resume your normal diet but eat in smaller quantities. The reduced size of the stomach limits the capacity to hold food.

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