Recovering from Lung Surgery

There are many reasons that people have to undergo lung surgery. These range from discovery of a mass in the lung—whether it is benign (not harmful) or malignant (cancerous)—to a collapsed lung, or the collection of fluid in the lungs. Regardless of the reason, it’s very important to dedicate enough time to recovering restfully. Trying to rush recovery or focusing on the stress of the situation will make healing a more difficult and probably longer process, so pay close attention to the following information. That way, you’ll be back on your feet and breathing easy before you know it.

Leaving the Hospital

First off, listen closely to the discharge instructions your doctor provides. Understandably, you have been through quite a bit of stress from undergoing surgery, but it is extremely important to heed this advice. Make sure to schedule your follow-ups as needed—you may wish to do this before leaving the hospital, so that you don’t lose sight of that priority when you settle back into your home. After you’ve received your instructions and prescriptions, be sure a friend or family member is present to drive you home. The urge to drive yourself may strike, since you have been waited on hand and foot in the hospital, but resist it. It is safer to have someone else handle the driving while you are still regaining your strength.

After you leave the hospital, remember that you aren’t yet supposed to feel completely better. You may experience some trouble breathing, including shortness of breath, but your doctor will let you know what to look for as far as urgent situations are concerned. You will get a bit better every day, but don’t be impatient. Review your discharge papers to keep in mind what you are and aren’t yet strong enough to accomplish.


Do not take hot showers—these will irritate your incisions and interfere with healing. Warm water is okay. Be sure to also use a mild soap, but do wash the incision. Keeping bacteria off of it is vital to avoid infection. Normal results of surgery at the incision site include bruising, itching, sensitivity and numbness, so don’t be alarmed unless something more severe occurs. These effects can last for many weeks following surgery.

Managing Pain

Remember that pain during recovery is quite normal, and that pain medications take time to metabolize. Don’t wait until your pain is severe or unbearable before taking the medication. You should have been prescribed enough that you can take it on a regular schedule for the first several days or weeks, thus potentially avoiding strong onsets of pain as much as possible. Take all your other medications exactly as prescribed—never stop taking a medication before the prescription is up without consulting your physician.


Where exercise is concerned, when you feel up to walking, you should do it. It’s one of the best ways to increase circulation and get exercise while remaining low-impact. Avoid heavy lifting or other strenuous activities until you are completely well.

If you experience any of the following symptoms during your weeks of recovery, call your doctor: a weeping or severely red incision, sudden prohibitive shortness of breath, abrupt chest pain, high fever (above 101° F), or rapid heartbeat.

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