Recovery after VATS and Robotic Lobectomy Surgery

At home:

  • The chest tube site will be covered with a gauze dressing at the time of tube removal. This site may drain fluid for 24-48 hours. Patients will receive gauze to change the dressing if it becomes wet. Otherwise, you can remove the dressing and shower 24 hours after tube removal.
  • The other surgical sites are closed with absorbable sutures and do not require special care. You can wash the surgical sites with soap and water, and pat them dry with a towel.
  • You should continue to wean off any narcotic medication as soon as possible.
  • Avoid lifting anything over 10 lbs. until your follow-up appointment.
  • Take your IS (spirometer) home with you. You should continue to use it as frequently as you can, at least several times daily. This will help you to continue to expand your lungs and cough up any secretions.
  • You should continue to take short, frequent walks at home. There are no restrictions on your amount of exercise, other than no heavy lifting. You are encouraged to increase your exercise daily, as tolerated. You should expect some fatigue and shortness of breath with your exercise. That’s OK. Don’t become discouraged. Rest when necessary. Most people find that they can build their exercise stamina back to pre-surgery levels within four to six weeks.
  • Do not drive if you are taking narcotics. Once you are completely weaned from any narcotic medication, you can drive if you feel safe doing so.

Follow-up office visit

  • Call the office to schedule a follow-up visit two to three weeks after discharge.
  • You will have a chest X-ray done on the day of the office visit.
  • Call the office sooner if you are concerned that you are not recovering appropriately. Some obvious reasons to call would be fever over 100.4°F, worsening chest pain or shortness of breath, or redness at the incision sites.

Long-term follow-up

  • All patients with lung cancer need follow-up visits and X-rays periodically to ensure that there is no evidence of cancer recurrence or a new lung cancer.
  • Most patients with Stage 1 lung cancer do not have a medical oncologist, as they do not require chemotherapy. In these patients, your physician will arrange for surveillance visits every six months.
  • You will have a follow-up chest X-ray at your 6-month visit.
  • You will have a CT scan at your 1-year visit.
  • We will alternate chest X-ray and CT scans every six months for a period of five years.
  • Patients with more advanced cancers (Stage 2 and above) will have visited with an oncologist, as chemotherapy is recommended. In these situations, the surveillance visits and imaging tend to be more frequent and intensive, often with CT or PET scans every four to six months. These will be at the discretion of the medical oncologist.