Discharge Instructions for Pneumonectomy

You had a surgical procedure called a pneumonectomy. This is the removal of one of your lungs. The surgery may involve the:

  • Chest wall

  • Muscles

  • Ribs

  • Membranes covering the lungs (pleaura)

  • Airways (bronchi)

  • Lungs

There are different reasons for having this surgery. The most common reason is lung cancer. It's possible to live with only one lung. But your remaining lung, your heart, and your whole body will have to adjust to this significant change.

Incision care

  • Make sure you and your caregiver follow all instructions for caring for your incision.

  • You may have a home health nurse to help change your dressing or bandage and your other health needs. He or she will change the dressing and report any problems as instructed by your healthcare provider.


You will notice that you get tired more easily. This is normal because your remaining lung and your heart have to work harder.

  • Rest when you are tired.

  • You may have been told to do exercises to increase the strength and movement in your arms and shoulders. These exercises are important with any surgery of the chest. Make sure you do the exercises as instructed.

  • You may also have home physical and occupational therapy. The therapists help you daily activities, movement, and exercise. Make sure you also do these exercises as instructed.

  • Don't lift anything that is heavy.

  • Avoid sitting with your legs down or crossed for long periods of time.

  • When lying down, use a few pillows to support your knees and lower legs.

Other home care

  • You will continue to take medicines to help lessen the pain. Make sure you know when you are supposed to take these medicines.

  • While you are healing and taking pain medicine, you should not drive.

  • Keep in mind that the pain medicines that you are given after surgery, as well as prescribed iron supplements, might cause constipation.

    • Use laxatives, stool softeners, or enemas as directed by your healthcare provider.

    • Drink water throughout the day, unless instructed to limit fluids.

    • Eat high-fiber foods, like whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.

  • Use your incentive spirometer as instructed.

  • Return to your diet as you feel able. Eat a healthy, wells-balanced diet. A healthy diet helps you heal. Make sure you have lean meats, low- or no-fat dairy products, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.

  • Do not smoke and stay away from people who do. If you do smoke, talk with your healthcare provider about ways to quit.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. And call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns before your appointment. 

When to seek medical care

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever

  • Increased coughing or coughing up brown or bloody mucus

  • Increased redness, swelling, or pain near your incision or drainage from your incision

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Increased pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Swelling in one or both legs

  • Feeling that your heart is beating too fast (palpitations)