Lung Cancer Home > Pneumonectomy Complications

While rare, there are risks and potential complications associated with a pneumonectomy. These can be serious, like a persistent air leak or nerve injury, or more minor, such as bruising, mild infections, or nausea. Your overall health can be a factor affecting whether or not complications occur. Other health issues, such as diabetes, can also affect your chances of experiencing problems.

An Introduction to Pneumonectomy Complications

No surgery is completely free of risks. However, pneumonectomies have been done for many years with good results and few complications or problems.
This article discusses some of the minor and major pneumonectomy complications that can happen during and after this surgery. This article doesn't cover all of the risks related to anesthesia. Your anesthesia care team will explain those risks to you in detail.

Minor Pneumonectomy Complications

Minor pneumonectomy complications can include:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Minor infections
  • Minor bleeding or bruising
  • Abnormal or painful scar formation
  • Allergic skin reaction to tape, dressings, or latex
  • Skin numbness.
In most cases, minor problems are temporary and your healthcare team can take care of them easily.

Major Complications

There are some major pneumonectomy complications that can happen during or after the surgery, although they don't happen very often. Your overall health may play a role in whether or not some of these problems do happen and how well your body heals afterwards.
For example, people who have experienced any of the following are more likely to have pneumonectomy complications than those who don't have these health concerns:
  • Severe heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Use tobacco products
  • Have had other surgeries in this area.
The most common or potentially serious pneumonectomy complications that can happen are as follows (although more can occur):
  • A bronchopleural fistula
  • An irregular heart rhythm
  • Inability to breathe without a ventilator
  • Persistent shortness of breath.
Some of the other major problems that can happen are:
  • Lung problems, such as partial or complete lung collapse or lung failure
  • Heart problems, such as heart attack or heart failure
  • Serious infection
  • Significant bleeding
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots
  • Wound breakdown
  • Reaction to medication or anesthesia
  • Nerve injury
  • Blood vessel injury
  • Loss of life
  • Other rare and unlikely events.
Depending on your health, if there is a complication, you may need to stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) or the hospital longer than planned. You may also need to have a blood transfusion or another surgery. Other pneumonectomy complications may cause you to have a permanent disability or even lose your life.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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