The type of surgical procedure done to treat lung disease will depend on the location and extent of the problem. The goal of surgery is to remove visible areas of disease. This often requires taking out all or part of a lung:

  • Segmentectomy or wedge resection. This surgery removes the diseased tissue and a small area around it.
  • Lobectomy. This surgery removes an entire lobe of the lung. This is often the preferred type of surgery for lung cancer if it can be done.
  • Pneumonectomy. This is removal of the whole lung.

If the cancer is found in an early stage, surgery may cure it. Your thoracic surgeon will consider the tumor size and location in deciding how much of the lung to remove. As with any surgery that uses general anesthesia (medicine that makes you sleep), you will be connected to a machine that breathes for you during the procedure.

Whenever possible, Western Surgical Group’s thoracic surgeons will employ a procedure called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), to perform your surgery in the most minimally invasive fashion possible. It is typically used only for early stage cancer near the outside of the lung. Removal of the lung tissue is done through several small incisions using a thin, rigid tube with a video camera at the end to see inside the chest. Less pain, a shorter hospital stay and quicker healing are benefits of this type of surgery.

Risks and complications

Lung surgery has certain risks and possible complications. These include:

  • Risks of general anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Air leaking through the lung wall
  • Heart problems
  • Blood clots in the legs
  • Shortness of breath (especially in people with other lung problems)


American College of Surgeons