Thoracotomy

Care After

Refer to this sheet in the next few weeks. These instructions provide you with information on caring for yourself after your procedure. Your caregiver may also give you more specific instructions. Your treatment has been planned according to current medical practices, but problems sometimes occur. Call your caregiver if you have any problems or questions after your procedure.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever only as directed by your caregiver. It is very important to take pain relieving medicine before your pain becomes severe. You will be able to breathe and cough more comfortably if your pain is well controlled.

  • Take deep breaths. Deep breathing helps to keep the lungs inflated and protects against a lung infection (pneumonia).

  • Cough frequently. Even though coughing may cause discomfort, coughing is important to clear mucus (phlegm) and expand your lungs. Coughing helps prevent pneumonia. If it hurts to cough, hold a pillow against your chest when you cough. This may help with the discomfort.

  • Continue to use an incentive spirometer as directed. The use of an incentive spirometer helps to keep your lungs inflated and protects against pneumonia.

  • Change the bandages (dressings) over your incision as needed or as directed by your caregiver.

  • Remove the dressing over your chest tube site as directed by your caregiver.

  • Resume your normal diet as directed. It is important to have adequate protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals to promote healing.

  • Prevent constipation.

  • Eat high-fiber foods such as whole grain cereals and breads, brown rice, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Drink enough water and fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow. Avoid drinking beverages containing caffeine. Beverages containing caffeine can cause dehydration and harden your stool.

  • Talk to your caregiver about taking a stool softener or laxative.

  • Resume activities as directed.

  • Balance your activity with periods of rest.

  • Avoid lifting or driving until you are instructed otherwise.

  • Use showers for bathing until you see your caregiver, or as instructed. Gently wash the area of your incision with water and soap as directed. Do not use anything else to clean your incision except as directed by your caregiver. Do not take baths or sit in a hot tub until directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not smoke or use tobacco products.

  • Avoid secondhand smoke.

  • Schedule an appointment for stitch (suture) or staple removal as directed.

  • Schedule and attend all follow-up visits as directed by your caregiver. It is important to keep all your appointments.

  • Participate in pulmonary rehabilitation as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not travel by airplane for 2 weeks after the chest tube is removed.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You are bleeding from your wounds.

  • Your heartbeat seems irregular.

  • You have redness, swelling, or increasing pain in the wounds.

  • There is pus coming from your wounds.

  • There is a bad smell coming from the wound or dressing.

  • You have a fever or chills.

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.

  • You have muscle aches.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have a rash.

  • You have difficulty breathing.

  • You have a reaction or side effect to medicines given.

  • You have persistent nausea.

  • You have lightheadedness or feel faint.

  • You have shortness of breath or chest pain.

  • You have persistent pain.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.