After Your Thoracic Operation Discharge Instructions

After Your Thoracic Surgery

You have received a lot of information related to your surgery and recovery. This is a summary of the information you have received. Please follow these instructions after you go home from the hospital.


Your smaller incision will take about 2-3 weeks to heal. The larger incision will take 4-6 weeks. During that time, limit lifting to about 10 pounds. Avoid heavy tugging, twisting, pushing or pulling activities. After about 4 weeks you may gradually increase lifting and resume other physical activities.

You should do exercises with the arm on the side of your surgery. Throughout the day you should do arm circles, lifting your arm above your head and down to your side. Shoulder stiffness may occur if you avoid using your arm. You will not hurt your incision by using this arm.

Continue your walking as this will help get you stronger. This should be divided into several walks a day. You may walk up and down stairs.

Continue to do your breathing and coughing exercises, 5-6 breaths every 1-2 hours for the next two weeks. You may ride in the car. You can start driving after you see your doctor at your follow-up appointment.

Incision Care

You may take a shower. Wash your incisions with mild soap and water daily. Pat them dry after washing. Examine your incisions for any redness, swelling or drainage. If you see any of these changes in your incision or have a temperature greater than 101.5 degrees F, please call us. You may have strips over your incision. These will fall off on their own. If they do not, remove them a week after you go home. You can remove the dressing from your chest two days after your discharge from the hospital. There may be a small amount of drainage from this incision. You may need to put a Band-Aid over it for a few days. There may be some pink/yellow thin drainage from this incision that seems like a lot. It will stop in a few days. It may need a larger, thicker dressing. This incision will seal and the drainage will stop in a few days.

Chest Soreness

You may take Tylenol® to relieve the soreness in the area of your incision for a few weeks after your surgery. You may have been given a prescription for pain medication when you were discharged, take this following the instructions on the label and given to you by the nurse. You may also notice some pain or numbness under your nipple area. This is normal. This may be relieved with over-the-counter ibuprophen. Pain medication can be very constipating. You may need a stool softener or laxative.


Follow-up Visits

Please schedule an appointment in 3 weeks after discharge from the hospital. To make an appointment, please call the clinic at 217-545-8000. Our clinic is located at the corner of Carpenter and Rutledge Streets, 2nd Floor of the Simmons Cancer Institute.

If you have any questions or concerns about your surgery or your recovery, please call the Cardiothoracic Surgery office Monday through Friday 8-4:30 at 217-545-4421. After hours or on the weekends call 217-545-8000 and our on-call person can be reached via the answering service. Go to the emergency room for all emergencies.