Recovery After Surgical Diagnosis of Chest, Lung Problems

After the procedure, you may need to stay in the hospital for  1 to 5  days. Once at home, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully. And be sure to make and keep all follow-up appointments.

In the hospital

Man using incentive spirometer in hospital bed.

After your procedure, you are sent to a recovery room to recover from the anesthesia. To help keep your lungs clear and prevent infection, a healthcare provider teaches you a breathing exercise called incentive spirometry. This method helps you take deep breaths that may help reduce the risk of lung problems that can occur after chest or belly (abdominal) surgery. Your provider can tell you how often to use this tool. Also, depending on your condition, a nurse or other healthcare provider helps you get up and walk soon after the procedure. This is to keep your blood moving and help prevent infection.

At home

Once at home, be sure to:

  • Not lift more than  5 to 10  pounds or the amount as directed by your healthcare provider.

  • Limit strenuous activity as directed by your provider

  • Take pain medicine and other medicines only as directed.

  • Return to work and drive a car only when your provider says it’s OK.

  • Keep doing incentive spirometry as often as directed.

  • If you smoke, quit. If you need help stopping smoking, talk with your provider.

When to call your healthcare provider

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

  • Redness, drainage, or swelling of skin at incision sites

  • Uncontrolled or increased pain

  • Sudden shortness of breath

  • Chest pain with coughing or breathing

  • Fever of  100.4º F ( 38°C ) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • New symptoms

Call 911

Call 911if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

  • Wheezing

  • Cool, moist, pale, or blue skin

  • Hoarse voice or trouble speaking

  • Confusion

  • Very drowsy or trouble waking up

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Feeling dizzy or weak or a sudden drop in blood pressure

  • Feeling of doom

Getting your test results

It will likely take a few days to get back your test results. Your healthcare provider will discuss the results with you in detail. Be sure to share any questions or concerns you have with your healthcare provider. Write down your concerns and bring the list with you so you won't forget them during your appointments.

If you have lung cancer

You may be referred to one or more cancer specialists for further testing. Other procedures will likely be done. They can help figure out how far along the cancer is. This helps your healthcare provider choose the best treatment plan for you.

If you have another lung or chest problem

Your healthcare provider will discuss treatment with you. If you are given medicine, follow instructions carefully. It's important to continue to make and keep all follow-up visits so that your healthcare team can check your health.

Be prepared at your appointments

  • Write down any questions you have and bring them to your specialist or follow-up appointments.

  • Bring a family member or friend to these appointments. They can be a great support. They can also help you remember the answers to your questions and other information discussed.