Thoracic Surgery

Complete Guide About Thoracic Surgery

Thoracic surgery is a type of surgery that focuses on the organs and structures in the chest area. It treats many conditions, including lung cancer, heart disease, and other serious health problems. This guide will provide an overview of the different types of thoracic surgery, the procedures involved, and what to expect during recovery. We will also discuss the potential risks of thoracic surgery and how to minimize them. This information lets you decide whether this treatment is right for you.  

Types of Thoracic Surgery

Thoracic surgery involves performing surgical procedures in the chest area or thorax. It encompasses surgeries on the heart and other organs such as the lungs, esophagus, and trachea. Additionally, it may include surgeries on the diaphragm, chest wall, and mediastinum. Thoracic surgery is a specialized field that requires advanced training and expertise.

Lung Cancer Surgery

When lung cancer is diagnosed, the doctor will determine the next steps in treatment. Abnormal cells divide and develop in the lungs during lung cancer. Early detection is crucial, as the disease can spread to other body parts. Treatment options for lung cancer include chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. The doctor may recommend surgery depending on the size and location of the tumor within the lungs and its spread to nearby organs and tissue.

Types Of Lung Cancer Surgery

There are different types of surgeries for lung cancer.


One type of surgery for lung cancer is a lobectomy. The lungs have five lobes, and cancer can develop in any of them. The doctor may recommend a lobectomy if cancer is present in one or more lobes. During the surgery, the lobes containing cancerous cells are removed. A lobectomy is typically an option when one or two lobes must be removed.


In some cases, lung cancer requires the complete removal of the affected lung, known as pneumonectomy. This surgery may be necessary when cancer affects multiple lobes, such as all three right or left lobes. Before performing the procedure, the medical team conducts pulmonary testing to ensure enough healthy lung tissue remains for adequate breathing. During lung cancer surgery, the medical team removes the lung through an incision in the side after separating the tissue and ribs. They only recommend pneumonectomy, a complex procedure, if there is a chance of achieving remission. However, removing the lung may not be beneficial if the cancer is advanced or has metastasized.

Removing a section of the lung

Removing only a section of diseased lung tissue is another option for treating lung cancer. This procedure is recommended when tumors are small and haven’t spread beyond the lungs. Different options for removing the tissue include wedge resection, segmentectomy, and sleeve resection. Sleeve resection preserves part of the lung by removing cancerous areas, such as sections of the bronchus or air passage. After surgery, the doctor may recommend chemotherapy or radiation as a precaution to kill microscopic cancer cells that could spread to the lymph nodes.


Surgery is a possible treatment for esophageal cancer, particularly in earlier stages. It involves removing cancer and some normal tissue surrounding it. An esophagectomy is a surgical procedure that entails the partial or complete removal of the esophagus. It’s typically performed to treat esophageal cancer. The surgery carries some risks, such as injury to other organs, difficulty swallowing or speaking after the procedure, and acid reflux.

Esophagectomy can be performed using various techniques. However, it is a complex surgery that may require a lengthy hospitalization period. It’s crucial to have the surgery performed at a medical center with extensive experience in treating esophageal cancers and performing these procedures.

Open esophagectomy

One of the techniques for esophagectomy is the open technique. In this technique, the surgeon makes one or more large incisions in the neck, chest, or abdomen to perform the surgery. Suppose the incisions are in the neck and abdomen. In that case, it is known as a transhiatal esophagectomy, while if they are in the chest and abdomen, it is called a transthoracic esophagectomy. Some surgeries may require incisions in all three places. It is essential to have a detailed discussion with your surgeon about the specific operation planned for you and what you can expect.

Minimally invasive esophagectomy

In contrast, to open esophagectomy, a minimally invasive esophagectomy can be performed through small incisions for some small cancers. The surgeon inserts a laparoscope through one of the incisions to see everything during the operation, and surgical instruments are inserted through other small incisions. It requires a high level of surgical skill and experience. The benefits of minimally invasive esophagectomy include less blood loss, a faster recovery, and the possibility of leaving the hospital sooner.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

The thoracic outlet is a passageway above the first rib and behind the collarbone. It is surrounded by several muscles and extends from the base of the neck to the armpit. Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet are compressed. This compression typically causes symptoms on one side of the body but rarely occurs on both sides. Various factors, including injury, poor posture, repetitive movements, anatomical variations, and tumors, can cause compression. The most common cause of thoracic outlet syndrome is nerve compression due to muscle or bone abnormalities in the neck or shoulder.

Treatment Of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

The underlying cause determines the appropriate treatment and management of thoracic outlet syndrome.

Compression or blockage of a blood vessel

In rare cases where there is compression or blockage of a blood vessel, urgent treatment is necessary to break down the clot. The medical team can dissolve clots through medication, such as anticoagulants or clot busters like urokinase. After dissolving the clot, they may continue anticoagulant therapy to prevent further clotting. In some cases, the medical team may also recommend surgery to alleviate compression of the blood vessels, such as removing a cervical rib causing compression.

Nerve Compression

There is no consensus on the optimal treatment approach for nerve compression thoracic outlet syndrome cases. However, the primary goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms. Physiotherapy, which may include stretching, postural, and strength and endurance training, can benefit some individuals by relieving compression in the thoracic outlet. Modifying or adjusting work or sports activities may also be necessary. Occupational therapists can assist in this regard.

If symptoms persist, surgical intervention may be necessary to address the underlying cause of the compression. This may involve alleviating pressure from a cervical rib, an additional muscle or fibrous band in the neck, or repairing a broken collarbone compressing nerves or blood vessels. It is advisable to undergo surgery at an early stage of the condition to prevent further damage. A specialist can guide the appropriate course of action.

Procedures Involved in Thoracic Surgery

Before undergoing thoracic surgery, patients typically undergo several pre-operative procedures, such as medical evaluations, blood tests, and imaging studies. These procedures are designed to assess the patient’s overall health and identify any potential risks associated with the surgery. During the actual thoracic surgery procedure, the surgeon will make an incision in the chest to gain access to the thoracic cavity. The medical team will perform the exact procedure depending on the treated condition. The procedure may involve removing a portion of the lung, repairing damaged tissue, or removing tumors. They will closely monitor patients during the thoracic surgery recovery period while they are in the hospital. 

They will implement post-operative procedures such as pain management and breathing exercises to ensure a smooth recovery process. Additionally, they will advise patients on proper wound care and physical activity restrictions to avoid complications. Thoracic surgery is a complex and delicate procedure that requires careful planning, execution, and post-operative management to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient.

Preparation For Thoracic Surgery

Preparing for thoracic surgery can be stressful and cause anxiety. Here are some tips for managing anxiety before and after surgery. Talk to your healthcare provider about the surgery and ask any questions. Understanding what to expect can help reduce anxiety. Focus on the benefits of the surgery and the improvements it will bring to your health. It is essential to inform your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take to prepare for thoracic surgery. 

Certain medications may need to be stopped a few days before the surgery. Tobacco use should be discontinued at least a month before lung surgery to reduce the risk of wound complications. On the day or night before surgery, you should stop eating and drinking at the time your provider advises. Planning for your recovery and arranging for a family member or friend to drive you home and stay with you for a few days is also essential. To make things easier during recovery, consider preparing meals ahead of time and freezing them. Remember that feeling anxious before and after surgery is normal, but these tips can help you manage your anxiety and feel more in control.

After The Procedure

After completion of the surgery, the medical team will bring you back to consciousness in a recovery room or intensive care unit. They will place tubes in your chest for drainage and attach a catheter to your bladder. A provider or assistant doctor will also remove your breathing tube. When your provider determines you are ready, you will be transferred to a regular hospital room. With assistance, you can start walking around your room and the hallway as soon as possible. The length of your hospital stay will depend on the type of surgery you underwent and your progress in meeting your medical provider’s post-surgery goals. You will be discharged within three to ten days after the surgery. In the meantime, you can do breathing exercises to help expand your lungs back to their total capacity.

Recovery From Thoracic Surgery

The medical team will closely monitor the patient in a recovery room after thoracic surgery until they wake up from anesthesia. Once the patient is stable, they will transfer to a hospital room where they will stay for several days. The post-operative care plan may include pain management, medication to prevent infection, and deep breathing exercises to help prevent pneumonia. The medical team may also encourage the patient to walk and move around as soon as possible to prevent blood clots and promote healing.

The thoracic surgery recovery time can vary depending on the type of procedure. Hospital stays may range from three to seven days for minimally invasive surgeries, while more extensive procedures may require longer stays. Complete recovery may take up to a month or more. To ensure a successful recovery, patients should prioritize self-care by following their doctor’s post-operative instructions, getting enough rest, and maintaining a healthy diet. The patient needs to follow all instructions from their medical team regarding post-operative care and follow-up appointments. It is essential to have a plan for long-term recovery after thoracic surgery, which may include regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider and engaging in a rehabilitation program to improve your overall physical health.

Final Thoughts 

In conclusion, thoracic surgery is a necessary medical procedure that can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life. By understanding the various procedures and the recovery process, patients can feel more prepared and informed about what to expect. It is also crucial for patients to have open communication with their healthcare providers and to address any questions or concerns they may have. Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider about any aspects of your thoracic surgery you need help comprehending. Proper billing and coding ensure that healthcare providers receive fair service reimbursement. For this reason, thoracic surgery billing services play a crucial role in the healthcare industry. It can help providers to navigate the complexities of medical billing and ensure that patients receive the care they need.

Learn How I-Med Claims Thoracic Surgery Billing Services Can Benefit Your Practice. 

Schedule an appointment