Lung resection is the surgical removal of all or part of the lung, because of lung cancer or other lung disease. Surgery can provide a cure in some cancer cases, when the tumor is discovered early.

For cancer patients, the type of resection will be based on the tumor location, size, and type, as well as the patient’s overall health prior to diagnosis.

How to Prepare for a Lung Resection

Lung resection is typically performed under general anesthesia, so the patient is asleep during the procedure. It is important to follow any physician instructions to prepare for surgery. These instructions generally include:

  • Avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight the night before.
  • Bring all of medications to the hospital.
  • Arrive one hour prior to the surgery time.

There may be a pre-admission appointment one to two weeks beforehand, for routine blood testing and consultation with the anesthesiologist.

If possible, patients should engage in some mild physical activity such as walking, and eat a balanced diet leading up to the scheduled surgery; this includes limiting alcohol consumption to 1-2 glasses per day. They should inform the medical team of the following in the week before surgery:

  • All the medications that they take, both prescription and over-the-counter, including herbs, supplements, aspirin, and corticosteroids
  • If they have asthma or emphysema

Smoking cessation must occur two to three weeks prior in order for surgery to be effective. Some operations will not be performed if the patient is still smoking.

What to Expect During a Lung Resection

On the day before surgery, the patient will receive a call from the Center, with information about the following day, including where to go and when to arrive. On arrival, they will be taken to a pre-surgery area to measure their temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and listen to their heart and lungs. They may have their blood tested, an x-ray, or be attached to a heart monitor in the surgery room. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in their arm, so that medications may be administered before, during, and after the procedure.

Surgery may take several hours. Family members may wait in the Family Waiting Room.

Recovery after a Lung Resection

Patients are taken after surgery to the Post Anesthesia Unit and monitored for any changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. The IV line will remain inserted, to keep the patient hydrated and to administer pain medication, if necessary. Patients may also require the use of a ventilator to ensure air exchange and to prevent pneumonia for a period after surgery.

In most cases, if oxygen is required when the patient goes home, it is only for a few weeks. Before discharge, the patient’s nurse will instruct how to use any equipment they might need, how to care for the incision, and review any medications. Over a few weeks, patients regain strength and are able to return to work and participate in physical activity. Patients should take their medicine exactly as prescribed, and call their doctor if they have any questions or notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • High temperature
  • Coughing up yellow, green, or bloody mucus
  • Allergic reaction, such as redness, swelling, trouble breathing
  • Pain