You had lung surgery to treat a lung condition. You had open surgery or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). You may have had one of these common procedures:
You may have spent some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) before going to a regular hospital room. A chest tube to drain fluid from inside your chest was in place part or all of the time you were in the hospital. You may still have it when you go home.
It will take 6 to 8 weeks to get your energy back. You may have pain when you move your arm, twist your upper body, and maybe when you breathe in deeply.
Do not lift anything heavier than about 10 pounds (about a gallon of milk) for 2 weeks after video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery and 6 to 8 weeks after open surgery.
You may walk 2 or 3 times a day. Start with short distances and slowly increase how far you walk. If you have stairs in your home, go up and down slowly. Take one step at a time. Set up your home so that you do not have to climb stairs too often.
Remember you will need extra time to rest after being active. If it hurts when you do something, stop doing that activity.
It is probably okay to start sexual activity when you can climb 2 flights of stairs without being short of breath. Check with your doctor.
For the first 6 weeks after your surgery, you must be careful how you use your arms and upper body when you move. Press a pillow over your incision when you need to cough or sneeze.
Make sure your home is set up safely during your recovery.
Ask your doctor when it is okay to start driving again. Do NOT drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicine. Drive only short distances at first. Avoid driving when traffic is heavy.
It is common to take 4 to 6 weeks off work after lung surgery. Ask your doctor when you can go back to work. You may need to adjust your work activities when you first go back, or work only part-time for a while.
Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicine. Get it filled when you go home so you have it when you need it. Take your pain medicine when you start having pain. Waiting too long to take it will allow your pain to get worse than it should.
You will use a breathing device to help you build up strength in your lung. It does this by helping you take deep breaths. Use it 4 to 6 times a day for the first 2 weeks after surgery.
Wear pressure (T.E.D.) stockings for about 2 weeks after surgery to prevent blood clots from forming in your legs and traveling to your lungs.
If you smoke, ask your doctor or nurse for help quitting. Do NOT let others smoke in your house.
Keep the dressing (bandage) on your chest-tube wound for 1 to 2 days after your chest tube has been removed. You may have some skin soreness around your chest tube.
If you have a chest tube:
Change the dressing on your incisions every day or as often as your doctor told you to. Your doctor will also tell you when you no longer need to keep the dressing on your incisions. Wash the wound area with mild soap and water. See also: Surgical wound care
Sutures (stitches) are usually removed after 7 days. Staples are usually removed after 7 to 14 days. If you have the kind of sutures that are inside your chest, your body will absorb them and you will not need to have them removed.
Call your doctor or nurse if:
Thoracotomy - discharge; Lung tissue removal - discharge; Pneumonectomy - discharge; Lobectomy - discharge; Lung biopsy - discharge; Thoracoscopy - discharge; Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery - discharge; VATS - discharge