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What to expect after the operation

Get Well Soon

Helping you to make a speedy recovery after surgery to have part or all of a lung removed

What to expect after the operation


You will have a wound around the side of your chest. It may be raised and swollen at first but this should gradually settle. You may bathe and shower as normal but avoid rubbing soap or shower gel directly onto your wound. Pat dry with a soft towel. Do not pick any scabs which form as they are protecting the new tissue that is growing underneath.


If your surgeon has used stitches or clips then the ward staff will arrange for a district nurse from your GP practice to remove these for you. This is normally done at your home 7-10 days after your operation. If you have had a chest drain, the stitches from this will also be removed by the district nurse but may be taken out at a different time.


Some wounds require a dressing on them as they can leak a little fluid. If this is the case the ward nurses will arrange for the district nurses to come and change this dressing for you.


You will experience some pain following your surgery, around the site of your scar on your back, but also at the front of your chest as well. If you get a tingling or burning sensation in the front of your chest, or a feeling of numbness, this is perfectly normal in people recovering from a lung resection operation. It can take a few weeks for the pain to settle and you may have some discomfort for up to 3 months after your operation. This can easily be managed with painkillers. You will normally be given a week’s supply of painkillers to take home with you (though this will be decided according to your specific needs in consultation with your surgeon). You will be able to get further painkillers from your GP.


You need to keep an eye on your posture following your operation. The physiotherapist will have shown you some arm and shoulder exercises and you should continue to do these for 6 weeks. Not doing your exercises can allow you to stoop or become tilted to one side and this could lead to a frozen shoulder.


After an operation it is common to suffer from constipation. The painkillers, along with the changes in your diet and activity, are all causes of constipation. To avoid this, you should try and eat a diet high in fibre, i.e., lots of fruit and vegetables, wholewheat bread and cereals, and also drink plenty of water. As your activity improves you should find that your bowel movements return to normal. Sometimes a laxative may be needed, which you can get by speaking to your consultant or GP.


After your operation, you may find that your appetite has reduced, though it should return as you recover. Eating little and often may help to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients that you need, even if you don’t feel hungry.

If you lost weight prior to your operation you should speak to your GP for advice on improving your appetite and diet. In the long term, it is advisable to ensure your weight remains within the recommended guidelines.


Your body is using a lot of energy to heal itself, so you will feel more tired than normal - sometimes it can come upon you suddenly but don’t feel that it’s going to be that way forever. As your physical activity levels improve you will steadily start to feel less tired.

Feeling emotional

If you feel upset or emotional in the days and weeks after your operation, don’t worry - this is a perfectly normal reaction which many people experience.


Painkillers may well cause constipation, so it’s important to get plenty of fibre in your diet while you are recovering. Fresh fruit and vegetables will help to keep your bowels moving regularly.

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