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A thoracotomy is surgery to open your chest. During this procedure, a surgeon makes an incision in the chest wall between your ribs, usually to operate on your lungs. Through this incision, the surgeon can remove part or all of a lung.
Thoracotomy is often done to treat lung cancer. Sometimes it’s used to treat problems with your heart or other structures in your chest, such as your diaphragm. Thoracotomy can also be used to help diagnose disease. For example, it can enable a surgeon to remove a piece of tissue for further examination (biopsy)

You’re given a general anesthesia before having this surgery. The anesthesia ensures that you’re asleep and pain-free during the procedure. You’ll also have an epidural, which is a small tube in your spine, to deliver pain medicine during the surgery. While you’re positioned on your side, the surgeon makes a 6- to 8-inch incision below your shoulder blade, between your ribs. The surgeon then divides your muscles and spreads or removes ribs to reach your lungs or another part of your chest. If you’re having surgery on your lung, the affected lung is deflated with a special tube so the surgeon can work on it. A breathing tube called a ventilator keeps the other lung working. Thoracotomy is often done with another procedure. To treat lung cancer, surgeons can perform a few different types of procedures. Which surgery you have depends on the stage of your cancer.

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