What is a lobectomy?

A lobectomy is a surgical procedure that is performed to diagnose lung cancer or to treat infection, COPD or benign tumors. During a lobectomy, your surgeon will remove an entire lobe of your lung. There are two lobes on the left lung and three on the right lung. When possible, your surgeon will remove the affected lobe along with the surrounding lymph nodes and leave the other lobes intact.

Who is a candidate for a lobectomy?

Your doctor may recommend a lobectomy if disease has been found in a single lobe. Conditions that may be treated with a lobectomy include:

  • Benign tumor — non-cancerous growth in the lung
  • Emphysema — chronic disease that occurs when the elastic fibers in the lungs break down
  • Fungal infection — infection caused by fungi that grows in the lungs
  • Lung abscess — bacterial infection that occurs in the lung tissue
  • Lung cancer — cancer that affects the bronchi, lobes of the lungs or pleural lining or other lung tissue
  • Tuberculosis (TB) — bacterial infection in the lungs

Your Mercy Health doctor will evaluate your case to determine if you are a candidate for a lobectomy.

What are complications associated with a lobectomy?

Complications associated with a lobectomy include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Leak in the lung
  • Pleural effusion
  • Complications related to anesthesia such as heart attack, stroke, blood clots or pneumonia

Your Mercy Health doctor will discuss all potential complications with you before your surgery.

What to expect during a lobectomy?

A lobectomy is performed on an inpatient basis — during a hospital visit where you will be admitted.

After preparing you for surgery with anesthesia, your surgeon will make a large incision on the front of your chest at the area where the affected lobe is located. The incision will run from under your arm to around your back.

Once the ribs are visible, they will be spread apart, and the affected lobe will be removed. Your care team may insert one or more tubes into the chest to remove any fluid or air around the procedure site. Your doctor will then close the incision site with sutures or staples.

In some cases, you may have an epidural catheter inserted into the lower spine to feed pain medication to your back.

Recovery from a lobectomy

After surgery, you will stay in the hospital for up to four days, depending on how you are recovering from the procedure. While in the hospital, your care team will encourage you to get out of bed and move around as much as possible. If you experience severe pain, your doctor can give you medications that relieve the pain. Pain generally subsides by two weeks post-surgery.

When your doctor decides you are ready to be discharged, he or she will give you follow-up instructions that outline:

  • How to care for your wound
  • Breathing exercises
  • Dietary recommendations
  • Exercise recommendations
  • When to call the doctor if complications arise
  • When to follow up with your surgical team

At your follow-up visit, your doctor will discuss the results of the lobectomy and any further treatments you may need. Most patients return to their day-to-day routine within a month or two after the procedure.

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