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On this page, you can read all about what to expect during your hospital stay. Or, just click on one of the links below, to get the answer you want right now.
After your surgery, you will have:
Incisions: Your surgery will be completed either by a thoracotomy or by video assisted surgery (VATS). Your surgeon will tell you where and how big your incision (cut) will be.
VATS: If you are having video assisted surgery (VATS), you will have 3 to 5 small incisions on your side. Each incision is about 2 centimetres (about ¾ of an inch) long. You will have 1 to 2 small incisions on your side for the chest tube(s). Each will be about 2 centimetres (about ¾ of an inch) long. Bandages cover your incisions. We remove them the following day after your surgery.
Stitches or staples: Your surgeon usually uses dissolvable stitches to close your incisions. This means they go away on their own. If they are not dissolvable, your nurse usually removes the stitches or staples 14 days after your operation. If your stitches or staples need to remain in after you are discharged home, your family doctor can remove them. We will tell you if this is the case and give you a staple remover to take to your family doctor.
Chest Tubes: You will have 1 to 2 chest tubes coming out of the side of your chest. These tubes remove air and fluid from the inside of your chest area. The tubes are attached to a machine that helps suck the air and fluid out. We use stitches to keep the chest tubes in place. These are not dissolvable. We remove your chest tubes once it is safe. The stitches are to be removed by your family doctor 14 days after we take the tubes out.
Heart monitor: You will be on a heart monitor while you are in the Step Down Unit. This doesn't mean there is a problem with your heart. We do this for all patients who have your type of surgery.
Urinary catheter: You will have a tube draining your bladder overnight. We remove it the next morning. While you are in the hospital, the nurse measures how much you urinate.
Intravenous (IV): You have an IV so we can give you fluids and medicines. It stays in until you are drinking well or you no longer need pain medicine through a pump.
Arterial line: This tube looks like an IV, and we use it to take blood samples without having to poke you with a needle. It also closely monitors your blood pressure.
Oxygen: You may need oxygen after your surgery. At first, you will have an oxygen mask over your nose and mouth. When you no longer need the mask, you may get oxygen through your nostrils (nasal prongs). You may need oxygen overnight after surgery. We remove the oxygen once your oxygen levels are good enough.
Is there anything else I can expect?
We will work with you to manage your pain. We can give you pain medicine in different ways. These include:
Epidural. With an epidural, a doctor puts a small tube in your back. They usually do this right before your surgery. The tube is left in place to give you pain medicine after your operation. It's attached to a pump, which gives you the medicines. They include a pain killer and medicine that numbs the area where you had surgery. They may make your legs feel numb or heavy.
Intravenous (IV) Patient Controlled Analgesic or PCA A PCA pump is connected to your IV. The pump gives you pain medicine through your IV when you push the button. You should press the button:
You should feel the effects of the medicine within 2 to 3 minutes. If you don't feel any pain relief, let your nurse know. You are only allowed to have a certain amount of pain medicine every 4 hours. To control how much medicine you get, the PCA pump has a safety timer called a lock out. If you press the button during the lockout time, you won't get more medicine.
Only you should press the button.
Intravenous (IV) medicine: You get your pain medicine through an IV. It's important to let your nurse know when you have pain so they can give you the pain medicine. If you don't feel any pain relief after getting the medicine, let your nurse know.
Medicine by mouth: You may get your pain medicine in tablets that you swallow. This will happen once you are drinking fluids. Let your nurse know when you have pain, so they can give you the pain medicine.
How long you stay in the hospital depends on the kind of surgery and incision (cut) your surgeon makes. You may stay overnight or up to 3 days. When you can go home will depend on how you are recovering.
Learn more about your stay