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, and you may be short of breath. Take things slowly, and 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. Do start walking, though, 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 and will improve 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:

  • Draining or very red incision

  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath

  • Sudden, severe sharp chest pain that doesn't go away. Occasional sharp chest pain is normal.

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

  • Rapid heartbeat or "fluttering" in your chest

  • Swelling in the legs

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell