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Thoracotomy

By

Rebecca Dezube

, MD, MHS, Johns Hopkins University

Last full review/revision May 2021| Content last modified May 2021
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Thoracotomy is an operation in which the chest wall is opened to view the internal chest organs, to obtain samples of tissue for laboratory examination, and to treat disorders of the lungs, heart, or major arteries.

Thoracotomy is also often used to provide treatment. For example, when cancerous tissue is to be removed from the lung, thoracotomy allows a surgeon to see and remove as much of it as possible.

Thoracotomy requires general anesthesia in an operating room. An incision is made in the chest wall, and tissue samples of the lung are removed for microscopic examination. If specimens are to be taken from areas in both lungs, the breastbone is often split. If necessary, a lung segment, a lung lobe, or an entire lung can be removed.

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