It is possible that your surgeon may decide after beginning a minimally invasive procedure that you require an open surgery to safely and most effectively complete your surgery. 

Your surgeon may also decide after beginning a lobectomy that the entire lung needs removal. This is called a pneumonectomy. Your surgeon will staple off the lobe to be removed and tie any vessels that supply or drain blood to the lobe of the lung. After the specimen is removed, drains are placed to collect excess fluid from the lung and help to re-expand it. The incision(s) are closed with stitches or clips.  

Your surgeon will advise you on which procedure is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different lobectomy procedures and ask why your surgeon will use a particular type for you.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your doctor will perform a lobectomy using general anesthesia. General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the procedure and will not feel any pain. An epidural catheter (regional anesthesia) may also be placed to help with pain during and after the procedure.

What to expect the day of your lobectomy

The day of your surgery, you can expect to:

  • Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure you understand and sign the surgical consent form.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member. The surgical team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth.
  • Talk with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will receive.
  • A surgical team member will start an intravenous (IV) line. 
  • The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will start your anesthesia.
  • A tube will be placed in your windpipe to protect and control breathing during general anesthesia. You will not feel or remember this or the surgery as they happen.
  • The surgical team will insert a catheter in your bladder to monitor your kidney function. They will also insert a tube through your nose and pass it into your throat and stomach. This keeps your stomach empty during surgery. You will not feel or remember these procedures as they happen.
  • The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout the procedure and your recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.

What are the risks and potential complications of a lobectomy?  

As with all surgeries, a lobectomy involves risks and possible complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during surgery or recovery.

General risks of surgery 

The general risks of surgery include: 

  • Anesthesia reaction, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing 
  • Bleeding, which can lead to shock
  • Blood clot, in particular a deep vein thrombosis that develops in the leg or pelvis. A blood clot can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood. This includes pneumonia.

Potential complications of lobectomy

Complications of lobectomy include:

  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Buildup of fluid in the space left by the removed lobe 
  • Collapsed lung
  • Leakage of air into the chest between the lung and the chest wall
  • Moving of organs and tissue into the space left by the removed lobe
  • Respiratory failure and death

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by following your treatment plan and:

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before surgery and during recovery. This may include consultation with a registered dietician. 
  • Informing your doctor if you are nursing or there is any possibility of pregnancy
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage 
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies