The risks here are a guide; your own risk may vary. You should discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with your surgeon, especially if you are worried.
General risks of thoracic surgery apply to chest wall surgery. The risk of death from chest wall resection is low: 4 in 1000 (0.4%) nationally, this means 9996 people in 1000 recover from surgery.
In addition, the following are risks of chest wall surgery:
Minor more common risks – if part of the lung is removed
- Air leaking from the lung into the chest drain for a few days is common after lung surgery. Occasionally this lasts for longer, possibly weeks. A chest drain will need to be in place until this settles, you may be able to go home with the chest drain still in and come back for regular check-ups until the air leak settles.
- Your kidneys may not work as well after surgery, but this is usually temporary and gets better with extra fluid.
Major less common risks – if part of the lung is removed
- Some people are more short of breath after surgery. Part of your preop assessment is assessing your risk of being breathless after surgery. If you already have lung disease there is a higher risk of being breathless, including needing to have oxygen at home.
Shortness of breath may severe enough to require help from a ventilator machine. This can be with a face mask with you fully awake. It may also be need via a tube in your windpipe with you under sedation. If you need help breathing via a tube for a long time it may be better to have a temporary tracheostomy. This is a tube put in through the neck which is removed once breathing improves.
- A hole may form near the staples (bronchopleural fistula), this is usually only happens with an infection. It causes air to keep coming out of the lung but can be difficult to diagnose. You may need antibiotics and another operation to fix the hole.
- Fatty fluid may collect in the chest (chyle leak), it is rare. You may require a temporary change in diet, a chest drain or another operation to treat this.
Specific risks if you have metal or plastic supports
Infection can be serious if you have metal or plastic supports. The metal or plastic may need to be removed in another operation if it becomes infected. This is because the body cannot fight off all the infection when it is on metal or plastic. A long course of antibiotics may be needed.
Specific risks if you have a flap
If the blood supply to flap stops working the flap may fail, we give medications to prevent clots for this reason. Thinning the blood means a higher risk of bleeding which may require another operation to stop the bleeding. If the flap stopped working due to a clot another operation would be necessary to remove the flap and options would be discussed about how else to cover the gap, such as doing another flap from a different part of the body.