Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 1 April 2021

What Is a Lobectomy?

If you have lung disease, your doctor can recommend lobectomy surgery as one of your treatment options.

The lobes of your lungs are divided into five parts. Three are in your right lung, and two are in your left. A lobectomy is the surgical removal of one of these lobes. Your healthy tissue compensates for the missing section after surgery, so your lungs should function as well as or better than before.


Why Would I Need a Lobectomy?

It's normally the main treatment for patients with lung cancer in the early stages because the tumour is just in one region of the lung. In that scenario, a lobectomy may be your best choice for a cure and the only treatment you need. When cancer has spread to the whole lung or other areas of the body, however, this is no longer efficient.

People with other diseases in one part of their lungs can benefit from the procedure, such as:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Emphysema
  • Tumors that aren’t cancer
  • Fungal infections
  • Pus that fills one area, called an abscess

Other areas of the lungs expand as the damaged lobe is removed, making breathing easier.

What Happens in a Lobectomy?

Doctors may conduct the operation in a number of ways. The best choice for you would be decided by the type and location of your lung condition, as well as your general health. The categories are as follows:

  • Open surgery called a thoracotomy. A long incision is made down the side of the chest by the doctor. They can spread the ribs apart so that they can see and remove the affected lung lobe.
  • VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery). Two or four minor cuts in the surface of your chest, one about 12 inches long and the others about a half-inch long, are made by the doctor. To see inside and direct their instruments, they use a tube with a tiny video camera. You won't get a large cut in your chest as you will for open surgeries, and you'll recover quicker and with less discomfort.
  • Robotic surgery. Your doctor sits next to you at a console, controlling robotic arms that perform the procedure. Three to four half-inch cuts are made between the ribs during the operation, resulting in reduced bleeding, a smaller probability of infection, and a smoother recovery.

What Are the Risks?

A lobectomy is a big procedure with several complications, including:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • A collapsed lung – prevents air from filling your lung when you breathe
  • Air or fluid leaking into your chest
  • Pus that forms in the space between your lungs and the wall of your chest
  • Damage to surrounding organs and tissues

Your odds of developing complications following a lobectomy are determined by a variety of factors, including your general wellbeing. Have an appointment with the doctor to discuss the risks that might apply to you.


How Do I Prepare for Surgery?

Your doctor will recommend that you undergo tests to assess the condition of your lungs. Based on the findings, they can recommend pulmonary rehabilitation before your procedure to help you breathe better. It's likely that you'll require further rehab or physical rehabilitation following the surgery.

Your doctor would most definitely ask you to:

  • Quit smoking for at least a month prior to surgery. You won't recover as easily if you drink, and you'll be more likely to experience complications during the procedure if you do.
  • Exercise daily. It improves the efficiency of the lungs.
  • Stop taking aspirin and other blood-thinning drugs.

What's Recovery Like?

It takes time for a lobectomy to heal. You could stay in the hospital for up to a week if you have open surgery. If you have VATS or robotic surgery, you would usually be able to go home faster.

Some things to consider:

  • Pain. During the first few months following surgery, most patients experience some pain. When you leave the facility, you'll be offered pain relief, but you'll notice that you don't use it as much with time. Muscle soreness may be relieved by having a warm shower.
  • Fatigue. At first, you'll be exhausted and short of breath. That's usual, and it'll clear up in a few weeks.
  • Constipation. This condition may be triggered by painkillers and a lack of movement. When you stop taking pain medication, things will return to usual. Meanwhile, take the laxatives and bowel softeners that the doctor has prescribed.
  • Exercise. To restore your stamina and keep your lungs healthy and clear, you'll need to exercise every day.


Referenced on 1.4.2021

  1. American Cancer Society: “Surgery for small-cell lung cancer." “Treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, by stage."
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Lobectomy."
  3. Cleveland Clinic: “Lobectomy of Lung-Minimally Invasive Approach to Lung Cancer Surgery" (video).
  4. UptoDate: “Management of stage I and stage II non-small cell lung cancer."
  5. American Lung Association: “COPD: Surgery."
  6. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Why Consider Robotic Surgery for Lung, Esophageal and Other Chest Cancers?"
  7. American Thoracic Society: “Pulmonary Rehabilitation."
  8. Glattki, GP. American Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2012.
  9. Veterans Health Library: “Surgery for Lung Problems."
  10. University of Michigan Health System: “After Your Lung Surgery."
  11. https://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/lobectomy-lung-surgery

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