Pneumonectomy (Discharge Care) Care Guide

A pneumonectomy (new-muh-nek-tuh-mee) is surgery to open your chest wall. You may need a pneumonectomy if you have a lung abscess (infection), lung cancer, or blebs from emphysema (m-fuh-z-muh) blebs. A bleb is lung tissue that stretches like a balloon. These blebs press on the rest of the lung making it hard for you to breathe.


  • Keep a written list of what medicines you take and when and why you take them. Bring the list of your medicines or the pill bottles when you see your caregivers. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicines. Do not take any medicines, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, or food supplements without first talking to caregivers. Your caregivers can find out if these medicines interact with other medicines that you are taking.

  • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. Call your caregiver if you think your medicines are not helping or if you feel you are having side effects. Do not quit taking it until you discuss it with your caregiver. If you are taking antibiotics (an-ti-bi-ah-tiks), take them until they are all gone even if you feel better.

  • If you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment.


Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.


When you are allowed to bathe or shower, carefully wash the stitches (thread) or staples with soap and water. Afterwards put on a clean, new bandage. Or, change your bandage any time it gets wet or dirty. If you cannot reach the bandage, ask someone else to help you change it. You may have steri-strips (thin strips of tape) on your incision. Keep them clean and dry. As they start to peel off, let them fall off by themselves. Do not pull them off.


It may be hard for you to have a BM after surgery. Don't try to push the BM out if it's too hard. Walking is the best way to get your bowels moving. Eat foods high in fiber to make it easier to have a BM. Good examples are high fiber cereals, beans, vegetables, and whole grain breads. Prune juice may help make the BM softer. Caregivers may tell you to take fiber medicine to help make your BMs softer and more regular. This fiber medicine can be bought at drug and grocery stores.


Ice causes blood vessels to constrict (get small) which helps lessen inflammation (swelling, pain, and redness). Ice is best started after surgery and for the next 24 to 48 hours afterwards. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Place this on your chest incision for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as long as you need it. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you can get frostbite.


After the first 24 to 48 hours, use heat 15 to 20 minutes every hour as long as you need it to lessen pain or swelling. Heat brings blood to the surgery area and helps it heal faster. Use warm compresses, a heating pad, or a hot water bottle.

  • A warm moist compress is a small towel dampened with hot water and placed in a plastic bag. Wrap a towel around the plastic bag to prevent burns.

  • Be careful if you use a heating pad by keeping it turned on low.

  • And, make sure you wrap the hot water bottle in a towel. Do not sleep on the heating pad or hot water bottle because it can cause a bad burn.

How do I keep from getting a lung infection?

Take 2 or 3 deep breaths and then cough every hour while you are awake. Do this even if you wake up during the night.

  • Deep breathing opens the tubes going to your lungs. Coughing helps to bring up sputum (spit) from your lungs for you to spit out. Take a deep breath and hold the breath as long as you can. Then push the air out of your lungs with a deep strong cough. Put any sputum that you have coughed up into a tissue. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour while awake. Remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.

  • You may be asked to use an incentive (in-sen-tiv) spirometer (sper-om-ih-ter). This helps you take deeper breaths. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and take a very deep breath. Hold your breath as long as you can. Then let out your breath. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour while awake. Remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.


Follow your caregivers instructions about how much oxygen you should use and when. Smoking around oxygen can cause a fire. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around the oxygen for safety. You may put Vaseline™ ointment in your nose if it gets dry and sore.


It is normal for the area around your incision to be numb after surgery. This should go away in less than a year.

Rest and Activity:

  • You may feel like resting more after surgery. Slowly start to do more each day. Rest when you feel it is needed.

  • Ask your caregiver how long you need to wait before starting your usual activities.

  • Avoid lifting heavy objects.

  • Ask your caregiver when you can return to work.

Wellness Hints:

  • Eat healthy foods from all of the 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy products, meat and fish. Eating healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. It may also help you heal faster.

  • Drink 6 to 8 (soda pop can size) glasses of liquid each day. Or, follow your caregiver's advice if you must limit the amount of liquid you drink. Good liquids to drink are water, juices, and milk. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink, such as coffee, tea, and soda.

  • Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising. Together you can plan the best exercise program for you. It is best to start slowly and do more as you get stronger. Exercising makes the heart stronger, lowers blood pressure, and keeps you healthy.

  • It is never too late to quit smoking if you smoke. Smoking harms the heart, lungs, and the blood. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, and cancer if you smoke. You will help yourself and those around you by not smoking. Ask your caregiver for the CareNotes™ handout on how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.

  • Stress may slow healing and cause illness later. Since it is hard to avoid stress, learn to control it. Learn new ways to relax (deep breathing, relaxing muscles, meditation, or biofeedback). Talk to your caregiver about things that upset you.


  • You use oxygen and are still having trouble breathing.

  • Your stitches/staples are swollen, red, or have pus coming from them. This may mean that they are infected.

  • Your stitches/staples come apart.

  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.

  • You have a fever.

  • You cough up yellow, green, or bloody mucus.

  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash. Your medicine may be causing these symptoms. This may mean you are allergic (uh-ler-jik) to your medicine.

  • You have questions or concerns about your illness, surgery, or medicine.


  • You are coughing up more than a teaspoon of blood.

  • You have trouble breathing all of a sudden or have chest pain. This could be a sign that you have a blood clot in your lungs. It could also mean that you are allergic to a medicine you are taking.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.