One-Day Admission for Lung Lobectomy: An Incidental Result of a Clinical Pathway

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Most complications after lung lobectomy are related to pain, narcotic analgesia, and inactivity. When the operation is performed with the goal of minimizing postoperative pain, and when rapid restoration of activity and patient independence can be achieved, most postoperative complications can be obviated and early discharge can be attained.


Since March 1996, we have performed 10 consecutive elective major lung resections (8 lobectomies and 2 bilobectomies) for neoplastic (n = 8) and benign inflammatory (n = 2) lesions. Of the 10 patients, 4 were men and 6 were women ranging in age from 58 to 77 years (mean age, 66 years). Extensive preoperative patient and family education was provided in the surgeon's office. Same-day admission was followed by an oblique muscle-sparing minithoracotomy to access the chest cavity. A meticulous operation, with special attention to minimizing air leak and postoperative discomfort, was performed. Intercostal nerve cryolysis was used as the main method of analgesia.


All patients underwent the planned operation through a minithoracotomy and were extubated in the operating room. All patients exhibited normal ipsilateral shoulder girdle mobility in the recovery room and none required intravenous narcotics after leaving this unit. All patients were out of bed the day of the operation. The chest tube was removed the night of the operation in 2 patients, the morning after the operation in 6 patients, and on the second postoperative day in 1 patient. One patient who was discharged with a Heimlich valve had this device removed in the office 4 days after the operation. After the chest tubes were removed, there were no instances of pneumothorax. All 10 patients were able to ambulate independently on the first postoperative day. Eight patients were discharged home the morning after the operation and 2 on the second postoperative day. None of the patients have required readmission related to their operation or have exhibited evidence of postthoracotomy pain syndrome.


We have developed a clinical pathway based on patient education, meticulous minimally invasive operation, cryoanalgesia, and quick resumption of physical activity. Our preliminary experience with this approach has shown minimal morbidity, rapid restoration to preoperative status, and, for most patients, a 1-day hospital stay after major lung resection.

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