A pneumonectomy consists of the surgical removal of a lung. It is a major medical procedure that aims to reduce or even completely remove the presence of diseases caused by lung cancer or pleural mesothelioma. By removing the affected lung, the spread of malignant cells to other organs or sites of the body is diminished or even completely stopped, thus curing or, at least controlling the disease.
Pleural pneumonectomy is performed on patients who suffer from early stages of pleural mesothelioma when the disease still resides within one lung. If cancer hasn't started spreading yet and it doesn't affect the surrounding tissues, then pleural pneumonectomy is a viable, though dangerous solution.
Mesothelioma is not often diagnosed until it reaches more advanced stages, causing many patients not to be eligible for this surgery.
This surgery gets rid of most of the cancerous tissue by removing the affected lung, thus increasing the lifespan of a patient suffering from mesothelioma. A combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatment can further improve a mesothelioma patient's life expectancy by months or even years.
As opposed to a much more severe procedure (extrapleural pneumonectomy) which involves removing the affected lung, as well as the surrounding cancerous tissues, a regular pleural pneumonectomy is done when only one lung is affected, and cancer hasn't spread yet.
The surgery slows the development of cancer and facilitates breathing, significantly improving the patients quality of life. Furthermore, by performing radiation therapy in high doses, cancer can even be prevented from returning locally.
Apart from the usual risks involving surgeries such as infections, bleeding, and adverse reactions to medication, most people who undergo pleural pneumonectomy also struggle with shortness of breath for up to 6 months after the surgery. That happens because the remaining lung needs time to adapt taking over the work of two lungs.
Pleural pneumonectomy is a dangerous medical procedure, with a pretty substantial mortality rate (between 2% and 10% depending on which lung is removed), and a long and arduous recovery time.
The prognosis following the surgery depends on many factors, such as general health, age, and sex. But despite all these risks, a successful pleural pneumonectomy substantially increases the lifespan of a mesothelioma patient, extending their lives by months or even years.
Pleural pneumonectomy also involves a few short-term risks, including:
The surgery is done under general anesthesia. The surgeon makes an incision on the same side of the chest as the lung that needs to be removed. This procedure is also known as a thoracotomy. In some cases, ribs must be partially or entirely removed to facilitate surgery. The lung is collapsed and systematically removed. Then, any blood vessels, along with the bronchus are clamped off and sealed, and the doctors make sure there are no leaks and insert a temporary drainage tube to keep the chest cavity free of any air, fluid or blood.
In the first few post-operatory days, patients will need the help of respiratory gear, as they won't be immediately able to breathe on their own. They will also be fed and medicated intravenously in the initial recovery period.
Full recovery usually takes between two or three months, but it can take longer. Throughout the first two weeks of recovery, patients will be assisted with walking to prevent the formation of blood clots, and will also be encouraged to cough up any or all accumulated lung secretions.
A pleural pneumonectomy is a is a complex surgical procedure done under general anesthesia that removes a lung in order to control the spread of pleural mesothelioma.
Pleural pneumonectomy can help manage symptoms and even prevent local cancer recurrence.
Complete recovery can be achieved in 2-3 months, time in which patients learn to adapt living with only one lung.