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Thoracic Surgery — Lung Conditions and Treatments

Pulmonary embolism — Occurs when one or more of the arteries in the lungs are blocked, usually by blood clots that travel to the lungs from another part of the body. Blocked arteries deprive lung tissues of blood and may cause the tissue to die. The blockage makes it more difficult for the lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of the body. Symptoms include unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain, or a cough that produces a bloody sputum.

Pneumothorax (collapsed lung) — Occurs when pressure is created against the lung as a result of air leaking into the space between the lungs and the chest wall. Depending on the cause, the lung may collapse partially or entirely. Nearly half the people who have had one pneumothorax have a recurrence, usually within three years of the first.

Lung cancer — Cancer that begins in the lungs, usually in the cells lining air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Smokers and people exposed to second-hand smoke are at highest risk, but lung cancer can occur in people who have never smoked or have never had prolonged exposure to smoke. Treatment is based on the type and stage of tumor, patient’s overall health and other factors. Options include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination.

Lung surgery

Lobectomy — Sometimes called a pulmonary lobectomy, this common surgical procedure removes one lobe of the lung that contains cancer cells. Removal of two lobes is called bilobectomy.

Thoracoscopy and video-assisted thoracoscopy (VATS) — Thoracoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows a physician to examine the lungs or other structures in the chest and perform some surgical procedures, including biopsies. The physician makes a small incision and inserts an endoscope, a thin tube with a camera attached, to perform the procedure.

  • The Hospital of Central Connecticut offers VATS (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery), a minimally invasive approach that can be used to take tissue samples for biopsy and can catch tumors earlier.
  • HOCC surgeons can also perform (VATS) lobectomy on some patients with early-stage lung cancer. Surgeons make three small incisions and in one insert an endoscope, a long, thin tube fitted with a camera, that allows them to view images on a monitor. Using other endoscopic instruments, surgeons can remove cancerous tissue and the lobe of the lung. Compared to traditional, open surgery, VATS offers speedier recovery with much less post-op discomfort. Hospital stay averages three to four days vs. five to seven with open surgery, with recovery typically in two weeks, vs. four to six weeks.

Pneumonectomy — An entire lung is removed to ensure removal of all cancer. Most often performed to treat lung cancer that cannot be treated by removal of a smaller portion of the lung. Pneumonectomies can also be used to treat noncancerous diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).