Thoracotomy is a major operation and therefore is used less often than other diagnostic techniques. Thoracotomy is used when other diagnostic procedures such as thoracentesis Thoracentesis Thoracentesis is the placement of a needle through the skin into the chest cavity to withdraw a sample of fluid. In thoracentesis, fluid that has collected abnormally in the pleural space (termed... read more , bronchoscopy Bronchoscopy Bronchoscopy is a direct visual examination of the voice box (larynx) and airways through a viewing tube (a bronchoscope). A bronchoscope has a camera at the end that allows a doctor to look... read more , or mediastinoscopy Mediastinoscopy and Mediastinotomy Mediastinoscopy is the direct visual examination of the area inside the middle of the chest between the two lungs (the mediastinum) through a viewing tube (mediastinoscope). Mediastinotomy is... read more fail to provide adequate information. The lung problem is identified in more than 90% of people who undergo this operation because the sample site can be thoroughly seen and selected and because large tissue samples can be taken.
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.
A chest tube Chest Tube Insertion Chest tube insertion (also called tube thoracostomy) is a procedure in which a tube is inserted into the space between the lung and chest wall (called the pleural space). The procedure is done... read more is inserted into the pleural cavity and left in place for 24 to 48 hours afterward. The person usually stays in the hospital for several days. Complications include infection, persistent bleeding, and a persistent leakage of air into the pleural space (pneumothorax Pneumothorax A pneumothorax is the presence of air between the two layers of pleura (thin, transparent, two-layered membrane that covers the lungs and also lines the inside of the chest wall), resulting... read more ).
(See also Medical History and Physical Examination for Lung Disorders Medical History and Physical Examination for Lung Disorders A doctor first asks the person about symptoms. Chest tightness or pain, shortness of breath (dyspnea) either at rest or during exertion, cough, coughing up of sputum or blood (hemoptysis), and... read more and Respiratory System Overview of the Respiratory System To sustain life, the body must produce sufficient energy. Energy is produced by burning molecules in food, which is done by the process of oxidation (whereby food molecules are combined with... read more .)