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Thoracic Surgery


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A lobectomy is the surgical removal of one lobe of the lung, usually to treat lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The function of the lungs is to draw oxygen into the body and release carbon dioxide. The right lung has three lobes: a superior lobe, a middle lobe, and an inferior lobe. The left lung has only two, a superior and an inferior lobe. Some lobes exchange more oxygen than others.

The Surgery

To perform a lobectomy, the surgeon makes an incision between the ribs to expose the lung while the patient is under general anesthesia. The surgeon examines the chest cavity and removes the diseased lung tissue. A drainage tube is then inserted to drain air, fluid, and blood out of the chest cavity. The ribs and chest incision are then closed.

Normal Results

The outcome of lobectomies depends on the general condition of the patient's lung. This variability is related to the fact that lung tissue does not regenerate after it is removed. Therefore, removal of a large portion of the lung may require a person to need oxygen or ventilator support for the rest of his or her life. On the other hand, removal of only a small portion of the lung may result in very little change to the patient's quality of life.

For important information on the general risks of and preparation for thoracic surgery, please see Before Thoracic Surgery.

For post-operative information, please see After Thoracic Surgery.

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