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What is a Lobectomy?

By Sandra Koehler
Updated May 17, 2024
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A lobectomy refers to the surgical removal of an organ lobe; a distinct projection of an organ. A lobectomy can remove one or multiple lobes of an organ. The removal of two lobes of the lungs, for example, is called a bilobectomy, whereas the removal of the entire lung is called a pneumonectomy. The removal of a thyroid lobe is called a thyroidectomy.

Partial lobe removals may also be performed. This can be achieved through the removal of sections of the lobe or through removing wedged pieces. Surgical procedures can be performed through traditional means of a surgical incision or video-assisted procedures where a video camera and surgical instruments are inserted through an incision to remove the lobe. Video-assisted procedures are considered less invasive.

This surgical procedure is performed on damaged or diseased organs. Cancer is an example where this surgery is performed. A lobectomy may be necessary when the removal of the tumor or cancerous growth is not an option to decrease the chances of metastasis or the spread of cancer.

Common sites for a lobectomy include the lungs, liver, thyroid and brain. Brain procedures where portions of the brain are excised or removed may be performed to treat conditions such as cancerous growths or epilepsy. Epilepsy is a medical condition causing seizures, a temporary abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Frontal lobe, the anterior portion of the brain, or anterior temporal lobe removal, located around the ears, may be performed to stop seizure activity.

As with any surgical procedure, a lobectomy has some risk of complications which rise with the level of invasiveness of the surgery. Minor complications include bruising, swelling and tenderness of the area, nausea from the anesthesia and infection risks. More serious complications which can arise include torsion or twisting of the remaining lobes, lobe collapse, nerve injuries, bleeding issues and heart problems, including heart failure, heart attack or stroke. All complications are dependent upon the type of lobectomy performed and pre-existing medical conditions.

Recovery from a lobectomy is also determined by the procedure administered and overall patient health. Typically, a lobectomy patient without any major complications is discharged from the hospital within a few days. Full recovery, however, may take several weeks. During recovery, activities may need to be limited. Follow-up with the health care provider is usually within two weeks following the procedure.

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