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How is a Thoractomy Done?

written by: Lashan Clarke • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/31/2009

This article will give an overview of what a thoracotomy is and answer the question, how is a thoracotomy done?. It will also describe the main reason for undergoing this procedure.

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    An Overview Of Thoractomy

    In cases of lung cancer or other abnormal growth of lung cells, the surgeon might have to perform a procedure known as a thoracotomy. In simple terms, it is a procedure in which a cut is made into the chest. This is carried out by making the incision while the person is lying on their side.

    The main reason for using this procedure is to come to a definitive diagnosis of lung cancer. It can also be carried out when the physician would like to diagnose other lung conditions that are benign, or removal of lung cancer. The main types of cancers the procedure is used to diagnose are non-small cell and small cell lung cancers.

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    Lung Cancer

    Lung cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in the developing world. It is estimated that at least one million people in the world have been diagnosed with lung cancer. The causes of lung cancer are varied, but mainly associated with cigarette smoking or exposure to asbestos. The mortality rate for lung cancer is quite high and is responsible for most deaths from cancer.

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    How is a Thoracotomy Done?

    This type of surgery is painful because involves making a cut into the ribs, and opening them up to expose the lungs underneath. The patient is either given local or general anesthesia.

    A thoractomy is essential for diagnosis, and the amount of lung tissue removed will depend on how much of the lung is affected. The surgeon can opt to remove the entire lung, a lobe of the lung, or a piece of lung shaped like a wedge. If a wedge of the lung is removed, then the recovery time for the procedure is much less than having a whole lung removed, then the recovery time is much less than having a whole lung removed. In other situations a thoractomy is used to access and repair other organs such as the heart and aorta.

    When considering how a thoractomy is done, it is obvious to understand why someone would take a longer time to recover from this operation. The most obvious complaint after this procedure is pain accompanied by breathing problems. The doctor and nurse will need to ensure adequate pain medication is given, as a painful ribcage can make the patient reluctant to inhale or exhale to take a breath.

    The most serious complication when looking at how a thoractomy is done is an infection at wound site. However, proper wound care management, antibiotics, and tubes for drainage can prevent an infection from occurring.

    References

    Web Source: Pub Med Central, British Medical Journal. "Improved pain relief after thoractomy" 1981. Available: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1507722