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Thoracic Surgery



Bullectomy is the surgical removal of a bulla, which is an air pocket in the lung that is greater than one centimeter in diameter.

A patient may experience:

  • Pressure in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Soreness
  • A bloated feeling
  • Fatigue

Bullae are often diagnosed with X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans. Bullectomy is typically not a cure for the cause of the bulla, but may greatly improve symptoms.

How to Prepare?

It is important to follow any instructions given to you by your physician to prepare for surgery. These generally include not eating or drinking anything after midnight on the night before surgery, bringing all medications with you to the hospital, and arriving one hour before surgery.

You may have a pre-admission appointment one to two weeks beforehand, during which you will have routine blood tests; any heart, lung, or esophageal imaging; and a consultation with the anesthesiologist, who will administer medicine during your procedure that puts you to sleep and eases pain. 

If possible, do some mild physical activity, such as walking, and eat a balanced diet leading up to scheduled surgery. In the week before, follow the guidelines below:

  • Limit alcohol consumption to one to two glasses a day.
  • Stop using tobacco or cut back on the number of cigarettes smoked each day.
  • Make a list of all medications you take and bring it with you to the hospital. Include prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbs, supplements, aspirin and corticosteroids on your list.

What to Expect?

On the day before your procedure, you should receive a call from the hospital. You will be given information about the day of your bullectomy, including where to go and when to arrive. Leave jewelry, credit cards, or other valuables at home, and wear comfortable clothes.

When you arrive, you will be taken to a pre-surgery area so that we can take your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and listen to your heart and lungs. We will place an intravenous (IV) line in your arm, so that medications and fluids may be administered before, during, and after the procedure, and the anesthesiologist will give you medicine to fall asleep.

Bullectomy is often done by means of a thoracotomy, in which a four- to six-inch incision is made, usually below your armpit, or by video thoracoscopy, where small incisions are made on the side of your chest. A thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope as well as surgical tools are inserted through catheters. In video thoracoscopy, a video screen and console guides the surgeon as he or she removes the bulla. Once it is removed, your surgeon will close the incision(s).

What is the Recovery Process?

After surgery, you will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Unit and monitored for any changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. An IV line will remain in your arm to keep you hydrated and provide pain medication, if necessary. If a breathing tube was inserted during surgery to control your breathing, it may stay in place for a brief time. Your stay with us may last one night or more, depending on the healing process and the procedure.

Before you go home, your physician or nurse will teach you how to care for your incision. Gradually, over a few weeks, you will regain your strength and be able to return to work and participate in physical activity.

Be sure to call your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • High temperature
  • Allergic reaction, such as redness, swelling, or trouble breathing
  • Pain

Always take your medicine exactly as prescribed, and be sure to call us if you have any questions or changes.


Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

Boston Medical Center
Center for Thoracic Surgery
Moakley Building
830 Harrison Avenue, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02118

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Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

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88 East Newton Street
Robinson B-402
Boston, MA 02118
Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

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