Last Updated 05/07/2020

Authors:Sarah Counts, DO; Loren Harris, MD, FCCP; Lindsey M. Prescher, DO

About Lobectomy

Key facts about Lobectomy
  • Lobectomy is a surgical procedure to remove an entire lobe of the lung.
  • Lobectomy is done with either a few small incisions (called a minimally invasive approach) or 1 long incision (called thoracotomy).

A lobectomy is a surgical procedure where an entire part, or lobe, of your lung is removed. Reasons for lobectomy include:

Your right lung has 3 lobes, and your left lung has 2 lobes. The surgery may include a few small incisions or 1 longer incision. The incision will be made on the same side of your chest as the lung that needs the lobectomy. During the surgery, the lobe is removed, typically with nearby lymph nodes in case the disease or cancer has spread.

What to expect

Your doctor will order tests before your lobectomy, such as:

  • Blood and lung function tests;
  • History and physical exam;
  • Checking your heart; and
  • Advice to help you stop smoking.

You should not eat or drink before the surgery. During the surgery, you will be completely asleep. When you wake up, you will have a drainage tube, or chest tube, in your chest to drain any extra fluid or air to be removed.

After your surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital 2 to 4 days. You will need to get up, walk around, and stay out of bed as much as possible starting the day after your surgery.

You will have some pain. Your doctor can give you medication to help with it. The pain will go away in about 1 to 2 weeks. Before you leave the hospital, your doctor will tell you how to take care of your incision and when to have a follow-up appointment.

Understanding the results

In a follow-up visit, your doctor will tell you the results of your surgery, including whether you may need more care. Most people are back to their normal routines about a month after surgery.

What are the risks?

Any time you have surgery, there are risks your doctor will talk to you about:

  • Bleeding. There is a small chance of bleeding with a lobectomy.
  • Infection. Your doctor will give you medication to prevent infection.
  • Drainage tube. There may be a leak in your lung that requires a tube. The leak usually heals by itself and doesn’t require more surgery.
  • General anesthesia. These medications put you to sleep during surgery and may cause:
    • Heart attack;
    • Stroke;
    • Blood clots; or
    • Pneumonia.


See Navigating Lung Cancer to learn more about lung cancer.

The American Lung Association recommends that patients and caregivers join its Living with Lung Disease support community to connect with others facing lung disease. To talk to a trained lung professional, call the American Lung Association’s Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA. They can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support.