Thoracic surgery refers to operations on organs in the chest, including the heart, lungs, and esophagus. Examples of thoracic surgery include coronary artery bypass surgery, heart transplant, lung transplant, and removal of parts of the lung affected by cancer. Specialized thoracic surgeons treat lung and esophageal cancer, while specialized cardiac surgeons treat the heart.

Thoracic surgery, also known as chest surgery, may be used to diagnose or repair lungs affected by cancer, trauma, or pulmonary disease. For lung cancer, your surgeon may remove nodules, tumors, and lymph nodes to diagnose, stage, and treat the disease.

These surgical procedures may be performed with either minimally invasive techniques or an open surgical procedure called a thoracotomy. Your surgeon may opt for a thoracotomy when it is necessary to see large portions of the lung or inner chest cavity. The procedure may be performed to remove the entire lung or a portion of the lung.

A thoracotomy to treat lung cancer may be performed using one of the following procedures:

  • Wedge resection removes the tumor and tissue surrounding cancer.
  • Anatomical segmental resection removes the tumor, the blood vessels, the lymphatic drainage, and the lung segment where the tumor is located.
  • Lobectomy removes the entire lobe of the lung that has cancer, including the lymph nodes.
  • Pneumonectomy removes the whole lung with the lymph nodes.
  • A pleurectomy removes the inner lining of the chest cavity.