Extrapleural pneumonectomy involves the removal of the entire diseased lung, the pleural lining of the chest wall, the diaphragm, and the pleural lining of the heart. Extra pleural pneumonectomy is considered a serious operation. It is only performed on patients who are in the early stages of cancer; that is, before the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes and before it invades surrounding tissues and organs. This allows the bulk of the cancer cells to be surgically removed.
Extrapleural pneumonectomy requires general anesthesia. In order to access the patient's chest cavity, the surgeon opens the chest either at the front, called a sternotomy, or at the side, called a thoracotomy. This creates a wound about 9 inches long. The surgeon then visually inspects the chest cavity for diseased tissue. Any visible cancer is removed, including the entire diseased lung, the pleural lining of the chest and heart, and the diaphragm.
Recovery from the surgery usually requires a two week stay in the hospital, during which a health care team monitors the patient's recovery and watches for possible complications. Full recovery takes an additional 6 to 8 weeks.
Surgery candidates need to be in relatively good health, with good lung and heart function, because removal of an entire lung will increase the load on both the heart and the remaining lung. Surgery candidates also need to be strong and healthy enough to withstand the demands of major surgery and the healing it will require.
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