Thoracotomy: Your Home Recovery

For the first several weeks after your surgery, you'll be gaining a little more energy and strength each day. Breathing may be uncomfortable at first. You also may be short of breath. Take things slowly. Rest when you get tired. Your doctor or nurse can talk with you about what you can and can't do as you recover.

Caring for your incision

Your healthcare provider will tell you when it's OK to shower. When you shower, wash your incision gently with warm (not hot) water and mild soap. Bruising, itchiness, soreness, and numbness at your incision site are normal for several weeks after surgery. Drainage, bleeding, warmth, severe redness, and foul-smelling odor are abnormal. Call your healthcare provider if you have any of these..

Taking medicines

Take your pain medicines regularly, as your healthcare provider tells you to. Don't wait until the pain gets bad before you take them. In addition to medicine for pain, your healthcare provider may prescribe other medicines. Oxygen may also be prescribed.

Easing into activity

For 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery, don't do any activity that might put stress on your healing incisions. This includes heavy lifting or yard work. But do start walking to improve your circulation, lung capacity, and strength. Taking pain medicines before activity will help make breathing more comfortable. You'll probably feel short of breath for several weeks. This is normal. It will get better with time. As you begin to feel better, you can gradually add more strenuous activities. Ask your healthcare provider how long to wait before returning to sexual activity, driving, and work.

Man walking in park.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Redness, bleeding, , swelling, drainage, increasing pain, or warmth at the incision site

  • Fever of 100.4°F ( 38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Swelling in the legs

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath

  • Rapid heartbeat or "fluttering" in your chest

  • Sudden, severe sharp chest pain that doesn't go away, or unusual chest pain.

  • Faintness, or passing out

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