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FAQs: Following Lung Surgery

Our patients' frequently asked questions following lung surgery.

When should I call to schedule an office visit after my discharge?

Please call our office within a couple of days after discharge to schedule you first appointment between 10-14 days after surgery. Do not hesitate to contact us earlier if you have any questions or problems.

When Can I Shower/Bathe?

You may shower 48 hours after your chest tube is taken out. At this time you may take off your large bandage prior to showering and replace it with a Band-Aid® after showering. We ask that you delay taking a bath for 1-2 weeks.

When will my sutures be removed?

The thoracotomy incision is closed with dissolvable sutures and the chest tube site suture will be taken out when you return for your office visit 2 weeks after your surgery.

Is there anything I should look for?

Please be aware of signs and symptoms of infection. These include redness, swelling, foul drainage or fever greater than 100.5°F. Please contact us if any of the above is noted.

Will I have pain? For how long?

You will have incision pain for 6-8 weeks and sometimes longer. At discharge you will be given prescriptions for pain medication that we encourage you to use. Please do not drive while you are on these narcotics. The pain medication sometimes will cause constipation. We suggest that you place yourself on over-the-counter daily stool softeners such as Colace, Metamucil, or Senokot. If necessary, a laxative such as Milk of Magnesia can be taken daily as well.

You will also experience a numbness and tingling sensation at the incision site and under the breast. This is common and will eventually resolve. It can be as long as 2-4 months before this disappears.

Can I follow my regular diet?

There are no dietary restrictions.

Should I limit my physical activity?

The first week you will be tired because you have been through a lot and it is all right to take it easy. Try and stay out of bed as much as possible. Take naps as needed. Use your breathing device with the three balls that was given to you at the hospital at least every three hours. It is common to be anemic after you leave the hospital, which also contributes to your fatigue. We encourage the use of iron supplements postoperatively to build up your blood stores.

During the first week you may take walks as tolerated. By the second week you may use a treadmill.

You should avoid lifting anything greater than 10-15 lbs. for at least 6 weeks.

When will I be informed about my pathology results?

Usually, full analysis of your pathology takes 5-7 business days. If you are discharged prior to the availability of the report, we will discuss the results at your first post-operative office visit.

When can I fly?

You will receive a chest X-ray the day of your first post-operative visit. At this visit we will make sure that your lung is fully expanded. If this is the case, then you may book your next vacation — you deserve it!

If you had your entire lung removed — you may fly only after the surgical side is filled with fluid; this is determined at the office visit when we review your chest X-ray.

When can I drive?

You may drive when you are off narcotic medication and you have full range of motion of the steering wheel. This could be 2-4 weeks after surgery.

Weill Cornell Medicine Cardiothoracic Surgery 525 East 68th Street
Box 110
Suite M 404
New York, NY 10065 Directions
Phone: (212) 746-5166