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Understanding Lobectomy

When is it Done and What Procedures are Available?


Updated December 17, 2012

Understanding Lobectomy


A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia

A lobectomy is a type of lung cancer surgery, in which one lobe of a lung is removed as a treatment for lung cancer. The right lung has 3 lobes, and the left lung has 2 lobes. A lobectomy is also performed occasionally for other conditions, such as tuberculosis, severe COPD, or trauma that interrupts major blood vessels near the lungs.

Types of Procedures

A lobe of your lung can be removed by a few different methods. Your surgeon will recommend one of these based upon both the characteristics of your particular cancer, and how comfortable he is with each of the procedures:
  • Open lobectomy – In an open lobectomy, a lobe of the lungs is removed through a long incision on the side of the chest (thoracotomy).

  • VATS (Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery) lobectomy – In this procedure a lobe of the lung is removed through a few small incisions in the chest with the assistance of instruments and a camera. A VATS procedure may be considered for stage 1 lung cancer with fairly small tumors (usually less than 3-4 cm). When a VATS lobectomy is possible, it may result in fewer complications than an open lobectomy.

When is a Lobectomy Done?

The type of lung cancer surgery your doctor recommends will depend upon several factors, including:
  • The location of your tumor
  • The size of your tumor
  • Whether or not your tumor has spread to nearby tissues
  • Your general state of health
  • How well your lungs are functioning prior to surgery
A lobectomy is most commonly performed for a non-small cell lung cancers in which the tumor is confined to a single lobe. It is less invasive and conserves more lung function that a pneumonectomy – a procedure that involves removing an entire lung.

Next, Preparing for Your Surgery

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