You are currently viewing How Long Is Recovery After Lung Surgery? The Complete Outlook

How Long Is Recovery After Lung Surgery? The Complete Outlook

Lung surgery used to be a high-risk procedure, up until only a few decades ago. Even now, as lungs are highly delicate and vital organs, lung surgery is considered with intense seriousness. However, with the advancements in medical technology and the evolution of new and efficient surgical techniques, lung surgery today is a lot safer and more promising.

After undergoing lung surgery, you need to take good care of yourself during the recovery period. Your lungs are sore and tender after the procedure and their general location makes them more vulnerable. Every movement of your upper body involves the use of your chest muscles. Hence, you must take proper rest and allow your body the time it needs to heal completely.

But the main question here is, what is the lung surgery recovery time? How long do you need to rest and when can you return to your normal routine?

The article below discusses the duration required for recovery after lung surgery. While the exact time is variable and depends on several factors, there is an expected period for every condition and type of surgery performed. The paragraphs below give you a detailed account of the same.

Lung Surgery Recovery Time Based On The Type Of Surgery

There are two approaches to performing a pulmonary surgery that affects the recovery duration. One is the traditional method while the other is a more advanced version of the procedure.

Here is how the recovery period depends on the type of surgery performed.


This is the traditional surgical method, also called open lung surgery. In general, a thoracotomy involves surgery in any part of the chest cavity and areas of the lower throat.

As this procedure involves opening up the chest cavity, it requires plenty of rest during recovery and the wounds take longer to heal.

You would be required to stay at the hospital for at least 7 days. Once the doctor deems you fit enough, you will go through the rest of your recovery at home. The time needed for your complete recovery depends on your overall health status. Usually, you would feel tired and lethargic for 6 to 8 weeks after the surgery. You can perform light activities 3 months after the surgery, although you still might feel some soreness and stiffness in the operated area. Consult with your doctor before resuming any amount of activity.

Video Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS)

This is a minimally invasive and evolved version of thoracotomy. In the VATS procedure, the doctor makes small incisions in the required region of your chest wall. Then, they insert small tools consisting of surgical equipment and a camera. The camera gives a clear picture of the internal region as the doctor removes or replaces the necessary areas using the tools.

Due to the nature of the incision, VATS is also commonly known as keyhole surgery. As the incisions and stitches are small and few, the lung surgery recovery period for this is very less.

Usually, you would need to stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 days. After that, you can return home. You might be allowed to resume light activities in 3 to 4 weeks after the surgery. Ask your doctor to be sure. Full recovery might take about 3 to 4 months. Even then, the doctor would ask you to take certain precautions like avoiding lifting heavy weights or overexerting yourself. How Long Does It Take to Recover from A Lung Transplant?

How Long Is Recovery After Lung Surgery? The Complete Outlook

Lung Cancer Recovery Duration Based On The Condition

Lungs are very delicate organs. And even when equipped with favorable technology, doctors avoid the possibility of pulmonary surgery. It is only when medications and breathing therapies do not work and the pulmonary condition has imparted serious damage to the lungs that surgery is the best choice.

Different pulmonary conditions affect different parts of the lungs. Based on the part of the lung affected and the severity of the damage, different surgeries are performed. This, in turn, affects how long it will take for your recovery after lung surgery.

The main conditions that require lung surgery are mentioned below.

Lung Cancer

If a doctor suspects a case of lung cancer, they would recommend a biopsy test. A biopsy is a surgical procedure involving the insertion of special tools into the affected part of the lungs to extract a tissue sample for testing. It takes only a few weeks to recover from this lung cancer surgery.

While a biopsy is a mandatory surgery you have to go through in case of lung cancer, another surgery may or may not be in line. If cancer can be removed surgically, then the doctor would perform a lobectomy, a wedge resection, or a segmentectomy, as required.

Whether these procedures are done through open surgeries or VATS determines your lung cancer recovery time. You might recover from a segmentectomy sooner than from the other two surgical options.

Lung Nodules

Lung nodules are benign or noncancerous growths on the surface of the lungs. These pulmonary nodules are usually harmless and do not evoke any symptoms hence, no surgery is needed to deal with them.

However, if a nodule obstructs the airways, or is located in a region that causes chest pain or soreness, your doctor might recommend surgery.

The surgery to remove these nodules is relatively simple and has high success rates. In general, lung nodule removal surgery recovery takes only 3 to 4 months. However, you would be able to perform light activities about 4 to 6 weeks after the surgery.

Collapsed Lung

A collapsed lung is usually the result of physical trauma. It could be a fracture in the ribs or a wound that penetrates the lungs. Open surgery is required to recover from a collapsed lung.

The recovery after lung surgery for a collapsed lung depends on the severity of trauma your lungs have suffered. It could take from 4 months to even a year or more.

Interstitial Lung Disease

It is a set of connective tissue disorders that lead to progressive scarring of the lung tissues. Some of the disorders include pneumonitis, asbestosis, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

The surgery for this condition involves the removal of the scar tissues that have thickened and hardened. Usually, this can be done through VATS, and the lung surgery recovery duration spans from 2 to 4 months. However, consult with your doctor to be sure.


Bronchiectasis is a disease of the bronchus characterizing its blockage and recurring infections. This often leads to the thickening and hardening of the tissues on the walls of the lungs, thus making it difficult to breathe.

While this condition can be treated through drugs and therapies, in severe cases, surgery is the only solution. The surgery for bronchiectasis involves opening up the chest and removing the abnormalities or draining out the blockage in the bronchus.

After the surgery, you might feel lethargic for around 6 weeks. Your overall lung surgery recovery time might be up to 3 to 5 months. How Long Can a Person Live After Lung Transplant?

The Bottom Line

The paragraphs above discussed how the approach to pulmonary surgery and the condition that requires surgery affect the recovery period. And while they are major determining factors, your successful recovery also relies on your doctors expertise and self-care. So take care to follow your doctors instructions and give your body equal amounts of rest and activity as recommended.

Dr. Arvind Kumar is the pioneer of chest surgery and robotic chest surgery in India. He has over 40 years of experience and provides the most reliable and personalized treatment to all his patients. Currently offering his services at Medanta Hospital, Gurgaon, Dr. Arvind Kumar with his expert team is your go-to solution for your counseling and treatment requirements.


Your duration of stay at the hospital depends on the type of surgery you went through. For open surgery, doctors would keep you under close observation for at least 7 days. Whereas, after a VATS procedure, you can go home after 3 to 4 days. In the end, it comes down to your health. If the doctor observes steady progress after the surgery, you would be allowed to go home.

After undergoing lung surgery, avoid moving your upper body too much. It puts strain on the muscles in your chest which can break the stitches. Also, take rest as the doctor said and take medications on time. Avoid overexerting yourself and lifting heavy objects. Return to light activities or your routine work only when the doctor allows you to.

Leave a Reply