Type of Surgery
Last updated: 02/17/2009
A physician gains access to the chest cavity (called the thorax) by cutting through the chest wall. Reasons for the entry are varied. Thoracotomy allows for study of the condition of the lungs; removal of a lung or part of a lung; removal of a rib;...
and examination, treatment, or removal of any organs in the chest cavity. Thoracotomy also provides access to the heart, esophagus, diaphragm, and the portion of the aorta that passes through the chest cavity.
Lung cancer is the most common cancer requiring a thoracotomy. Tumors and metastatic growths can be removed through the incision (a procedure called resection). A biopsy, or tissue sample, can also be taken through the incision, and examined under a microscope for evidence of abnormal cells.
A resuscitative or emergency thoracotomy may be performed to resuscitate a patient who is near death as a result of a chest injury. An emergency thoracotomy provides access to the chest cavity to control injury-related bleeding from the heart, cardiac compressions to restore a normal heart rhythm, or to relieve pressure on the heart caused by cardiac tamponade (accumulation of fluid in the space between the heart's muscle and outer lining).
Thoracotomy is an incision into the chest. It is performed by a surgeon, and, rarely, by emergency physicians and paramedics, to gain access to the thoracic organs, most commonly the heart, the lungs, the esophagus or thoracic aorta, or for access to the anterior spine such as is necessary for access to tumors in the spine.
Thoracotomy is a major surgical maneuverâ€”the first step in many thoracic surgeries including lobectomy or pneumonectomy for lung cancerâ€”and as such requires general anesthesia with endotracheal tube insertion and mechanical ventilation.
Thoracotomies are thought to be one of the hardest surgical incisions to deal with post-op, because they are exquisitely painful and the pain can prevent the patient from breathing effectively, leading to atelectasis or pneumonia.
Find a Qualified Specialist
Looking for a specialist?
Please enter your zip code.