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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Thoracotomy?

A thoracotomy is a surgery to open the chest wall. The surgery allows access to the lungs, throat, aorta, heart, and diaphragm. Depending on the disease location, a thoracotomy may be done on the right or left side of the chest. Sometimes, a small thoracotomy can be done in the front part of the chest.

A thoracotomy may be done to:

  • Confirm diagnosis of a lung or chest disease
  • Repair the heart or the vessels of the lung and heart
  • Treat trachea (wind-pipe) disorders
  • Remove a portion of the lung or the entire lung
  • Treat esophagus (throat) disorders
  • Reinflate lung tissue that has collapsed due to disease or trauma
  • Remove pus from the chest
  • Remove blood clots from the chest

Possible Complications

If you are planning to have a thoracotomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to the organs in the chest
  • Persistent pain (only in a few cases)
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Collection of air or gases in the chest

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Major trauma involving multiple body parts
  • Age
  • Heavy smoker
  • Previous stroke or heart attack
  • Prior radiation therapy
  • Chronic medical problems

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Difficulty breathing or cough
  • New pain in the chest or persistent and severe pain in the area of surgery
  • Stitches or...