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Updated April 09, 2014

What is a pneumonectomy?:

A pneumonectomy is the surgical removal of a lung and done so through a thoractomy. A pneumonectomy is obviously major lung surgery, and only those who do not have heart/respiratory problems are candidates.

Can a person breathe properly with one lung?:

It is a common misconception that you must have to lungs to breathe normal. The truth is that you only need one.

How is the lung removed during a pneumonectomy?:

The surgeon makes an incision in the chest while the patient is under general anesthesia. Part of the rib may then be removed to allow for adequate working space for the doctor. The lung is then collapsed and blood vessels are tied off. The diseased lung's air tube is then clamped and cut. The lung is then removed through the incision. The doctor will then check to see if the air tube is leaking air, and then the incision is closed with staples or stitches.

Who is a candidate for a pneumonectomy?:

If lung cancer has spread to the brain or other parts of the body, lung cancer surgery is not an option to cure the diseases. A pneumonectomy is peformed on non-small cell lung cancer patients who cancer is limited to the lung, and who have passed a battery is lung function/respiratory tests prior to surgery.

The size and location of the cancer within the lung also plays an important factor.

How long is recovery after a pneumonectomy?:

Recovery can be a long process for those who have had a lung removed. Shortness of breath is often a complaint. The first few days after surgery are normally spent in the ICU. The first day after surgery, breathing is usually aided by a respirator.

Drainage tubes are removed after the first few days, or until there is no more fluid to drain.

Patients may return to work after 8 weeks in most cases.


There are many risks with a pneumonectomy. The risks a patient faces is pneumonial, heart attack, kidney failure, fluid buildup in the lung, and pulmonary embolism.

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