The Basics of Thoracotomy: What You Need to Know

Thoracotomy treatment in youngstown
Thoracotomy is an access incision on the chest used in conjunction with major surgical procedures that can be used to treat a variety of conditions. These conditions include lung cancer, lung masses, infection of the chest, and trauma  3dto the chest.  Trust Dr. Lawrence Schmetterer, a highly skilled thoracic and vascular surgeon of Ohio, to provide you with the best treatment for any thoracic condition. 


Thoracotomy is a surgical procedure that involves making an incision in the chest wall to gain access to the organs inside the chest cavity. The procedure is commonly used to treat a variety of conditions, including lung cancer, lung masses, infections of the chest, and trauma to the chest. 

In this blog, we will discuss the thoracotomy procedure in more detail, including its indications, benefits, risks, and recovery.


What Are The Types Of Thoracotomy?

Thoracotomy is a versatile procedure that can be used to diagnose or treat a wide range of conditions. The traditional thoracotomy incision involves the division of many muscles of the chest. This type of access is rarely required. Dr.Schmetterer employs a muscle-sparing approach that moves the muscles and nerves out of the way, providing a more effective, quicker healing, less painful, and more cosmetic result.  Another commonly used approach is video-assisted thoracic surgery, or VATS, which is accomplished via 2 or 3 10 mm incisions with a video camera and special instruments.

  • Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Thoracotomy is often used to diagnose and treat lung cancer. During the procedure, a surgeon can remove a small tissue sample from the lung for biopsy. If the sample is cancerous, the surgeon may remove part or all of the affected lung.

  • Esophageal Cancer Treatment

Thoracotomy can also be used to treat esophageal cancer. During the procedure, a surgeon can remove the tumor from the esophagus and repair any damage to the surrounding tissue.

  • Heart Surgery

Thoracotomy can also be used to perform various types of heart surgery, including coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) and valve replacement surgery.

  • Trauma Surgery

Thoracotomy can be used in cases of severe chest trauma, such as a punctured lung or a ruptured blood vessel. During the procedure, the surgeon can repair the damaged tissue and stop any internal bleeding.

  • Pulmonary Embolism

Thoracotomy may be recommended to treat pulmonary embolism, a condition in which a blood clot travels to the lungs and blocks blood flow. The procedure involves removing the clot and may be performed in combination with medication to prevent further clots.


What Are The Benefits of Thoracotomy?

Thoracotomy offers several potential benefits, including:

  • Improved Quality of Life: 

Thoracotomy can help alleviate symptoms associated with certain conditions, such as lung cancer, and improve quality of life for individuals undergoing treatment.

  • Prolonged Life: 

Thoracotomy can be a potentially life-saving procedure for individuals with conditions such as lung cancer, allowing them to receive treatment and potentially prolonging their life expectancy.

  • Reduced Risk of Complications:

In some cases, thoracotomy may help reduce the risk of complications associated with certain conditions, such as pulmonary embolism or trauma to the chest.


What Are The Risks Of A Thoracotomy?

There are a few risks involved with the treatment of thoracotomy: 

  • Pain

Thoracotomy is a major surgery that can cause significant pain and discomfort. The incision in the chest can take several weeks to fully heal, and patients may experience pain during this time.

  • Infection

As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection following thoracotomy. Patients will be given antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection, but some may still develop an infection at the incision site or within the chest cavity.

  • Bleeding

Thoracotomy can cause significant bleeding, both during and after the procedure. Patients may require blood transfusions to replace any blood lost during the surgery.

  • Complications with Anesthesia

General anesthesia is typically used during thoracotomy, which can cause complications for some patients. These complications can include allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and cardiovascular issues.

  • Nerve Damage

Thoracotomy can damage nerves in the chest, leading to numbness or tingling sensations in the chest, arms, or hands. This can be temporary or permanent, depending on the extent of the nerve damage.


What Is The Recovery Time from Thoracotomy?

Recovery from thoracotomy can be a lengthy process and may include:

  • Hospitalization: 

Thoracotomy typically requires a hospital stay of several days to a week or more, depending on the individual’s condition and the extent of the surgery.

  • Pain Management: 

Pain management is an important part of the recovery process and may involve medications, such as opioids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

  • Physical Therapy: 

Physical therapy may be recommended to help individuals regain strength and mobility after thoracotomy. This may include breathing exercises, walking, and other forms of exercise.

  • Follow-up Care: 

Follow-up care is an important part of the recovery process and may include appointments with a healthcare provider, imaging tests, and other tests to monitor the individual’s progress and ensure the success of the procedure.


What Are The Benefits of Thoracotomy?

The benefits of thoracotomy are: 

  • Accurate Diagnosis

Thoracotomy allows for a more accurate diagnosis of conditions affecting the chest organs. The procedure allows surgeons to obtain tissue samples for biopsy and visually inspect the organs to detect any abnormalities.

  • Effective Treatment

Thoracotomy is a highly effective treatment for many conditions affecting the chest organs. The procedure allows surgeons to access the affected area and remove tumors, repair damage, or perform other necessary procedures.

  • Minimal Scarring

In some cases, thoracotomy can be performed using minimally invasive techniques, which can result in less scarring and a quicker recovery time. Minimally invasive thoracotomy involves making several small incisions in the chest, rather than one large incision.


Speak to Dr. Lawrence Schmetterer — the Leading Vascular Surgeon of Choice in Northeast Ohio

Dr. Lawrence Schmetterer is a vascular surgeon and vein expert based in

Youngstown, Ohio. With his wide knowledge base and expertise in veins and Vascular Treatment, he can help you through this treatment to remove your varicose veins. 

To find out how you can make varicose veins a thing of the past, get in touch with us today.


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